India categorically stated on Friday that it would not ratify an agreement on new global customs rules at the World Trade Organisation’s general council meeting in Geneva, with the government making it clear that it would not adopt the protocol on the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) until a permanent solution was found to its public food stock holding and subsidy concerns.
“India is of the view that the Trade Facilitation Agreement must be implemented only as part of a single undertaking including the permanent solution on food security,” Indian Ambassador Anjali Prasad said at the two-day general council meeting that concluded in Geneva. “My delegation is of the view that the adoption of the TF (trade facilitation) Protocol be postponed till a permanent solution on public stockholding for food security is found.”
With India taking a strong stand, it will now be difficult for the developed nations to push their agenda of implementing the TFA. The world trade body is scheduled to ratify the TFA by July 31.
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Noting that in the past seven months no progress has been made on the public stock-holding for food security purposes, India’s representative said: “We do not have the required confidence and trust that there will be constructive engagement on issues that impact the livelihood of a very significant part of the global population.”
Explaining the Indian position, a senior commerce ministry official in Delhi said: “In WTO, nothing is agreed upon till everything is agreed upon… that is the position from which we are working from. In Bali, what was agreed to was a package and you cannot cull out sections and ask for ratification of those. It has to be a consensus. So we have left the position open for course correction — that can be in October or even in December. If a consensus is arrived at by then, TFA can proceed from there. If again the deadline fails, we are not binding ourselves to any position even then.”
Amending the WTO norms regarding stockpile of foodgrains is critical for India in order to implement its food security programme. The current WTO norms limit the value of food subsidies at 10 per cent of the total value of food grain production. However, the support is calculated at the prices that are over two decades old (1986 as base year) and not at current prices.
The general council — the highest decision-making body of the WTO — was scheduled to take up the issue of TFA on Thursday but deferred it on apprehensions that India will veto it. The TFA has to be ratified by all 160 member nations of the WTO so that it can come into force from July 2015.
In December last year, during the ninth ministerial in Bali, WTO members had agreed on a package comprising an agreement on TFA, issues relating to agriculture and development. However, between January and June 2014, while 25 meetings of preparatory committee took place on reaching a conclusion on TFA, only two meetings were held —- in March and June — on agriculture, the official said. India has now pitched for a joint conclusion of the Bali package.