Saturday, Oct 25, 2014

India closes door, keeps window open

US Secretary of State John Kerry with PM Narendra Modi and Swaraj in Delhi on Friday. (Source: PTI) US Secretary of State John Kerry with PM Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in Delhi on Friday. (Source: PTI)
ENS Economic Bureau | New Delhi | Posted: August 2, 2014 1:53 am | Updated: August 2, 2014 9:35 am

A day after its unyielding stand on food security put the multilateral process at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to liberalise global trade in jeopardy, India on Friday restated its commitment to resuming efforts to build a consensus on outstanding issues by September.

“We are ready to engage on day one (when WTO reconvenes in September) with a clear understanding that our position with regard to food security and our commitment to the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) is 100 per cent firm,” said a senior government official.

According to the proposal submitted by India at the WTO on Thursday, which was “within the contours of the original one”, New Delhi has suggested that the interim relief on breach of the 10 per cent food subsidy cap “should continue till perpetuity or even after the eleventh ministerial (scheduled in 2017), till a permament solution is found, while there should be enhanced process to find a permanent solution by December 31,” another official told The Indian Express.

The deadline to sign the WTO pact to ease worldwide Customs rules lapsed at midnight in Geneva on Thursday, after India demanded that the group also finalise an agreement giving it more leeway to subsidise and stockpile foodgrain than permitted under WTO rules.

Late on Friday evening, against the backdrop of the US blaming India for the failure of the WTO talks, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said developed countries should “understand” the challenges of poverty in developing nations and their governments’ responsibilities to address them. Modi, according to a PMO statement, conveyed the message to US Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker when they called on him here.

Informing the WTO members of the developments just two hours before the deadline got over late on Thursday night, WTO director general Roberto Azevedo said, “We have not been able to find a solution that would allow us to bridge that gap. We tried everything we could. But it has not proved possible. The fact that we do not have a conclusion means that we are entering a new phase in our work — a phase which strikes me as being full of uncertainties.”

However, going forward, Azevedo indicated that he would be “travelling and talking” to members during the month to get their views on the present situation and the way forward. WTO diplomats will go on summer break in August and will meet again in September.

“When everyone is back in Geneva, I will be asking the chairs of the negotiating groups and the regular bodies to consult with members on what can be done in these changed circumstances. As I have indicated, I will be doing the same under my own authority — continued…

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