Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday said the interest of farmers is paramount and can not be compromised during WTO negotiations, the pressure from developed world notwithstanding.
“We have to take a firm position in negotiations with powerful countries of the world. Had we followed the policies of the previous government, the interest of our small farmers would have been jeopardised,” Jaitley said.
He was speaking at a function called ‘Budget par Charcha with RWAs representatives’ organised by Delhi unit of the BJP on Saturday. The WTO talks in Geneva failed this week following a tough stand taken by India on its food security issues.
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“For us, the interest of farmers is paramount. There was a lot of pressure, but the government took a firm decision that it will participate in all negotiations but will not compromise the interest of poor farmers,” he added. He further said that the small farmers in India live in great distress. “They have to borrow money for farming and their inability to repay the loans sometimes pushes them towards suicide,” he added.
The WTO talks in Geneva collapsed because the developed world refused to take India’s concerns over farm subsidy issues on board. They wanted India to agree to trade facilitation agreement, which aims at simplifying customs procedure, increasing transparency and reducing transactions cost, without agreeing on farm issues.
India was pressing for an amendment to WTO norms regarding stockpile of foodgrains and calculation of food subsidies, an issue critical to the country’s food security programme. The current WTO norms limit the value of food subsidies at 10 per cent of the total value of foodgrain production. However, the support is calculated at prices that are over two decades old.
India is asking for a change in the base year (1986-88) for calculating the food subsidies. India wants a change, taking into account inflation and currency fluctuation.
With the current norm, after full implementation of thefood security programme, India would breach the cap of 10 per cent which could be challenged in the WTO and severe penalties could be imposed on India. The TFA is being pushed by the US and other developed nations as they seek to bolster their sagging economies through an unhindered international trade by way of uniform and easy procedures at customs.