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Asserting that there will be no compromise on the food security issue, India on Tuesday expressed confidence that WTO members will understand New Delhi’s “sensitivities on the matter” and “move forward with positive spirit”.
“I am confident that India will be able to persuade the WTO Membership to appreciate the sensitivities of India and other developing countries and see their way to taking this issue forward in a positive spirit,” Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told Parliament.
India has decided not to ratify the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), which aims at easing customs norms, without getting a simultaneous agreement on the public stockpiling issue for food security purpose, as was agreed during the WTO’s Bali ministerial in December last year.
India has expressed its apprehensions that once TFA, which is dear to the developed countries, is implemented, they would not bother about finding a permanent solution to the food stockpile issue, which is crucial for the country’s food security programme.
“India is a signatory to the Bali Decisions, including TFA, and is not standing in the way of its implementation, but is seeking an equal level of commitment and progress in working on the issue of public stock holding which affects the country’s livelihood and food security,” the minister said.
She said that a permanent solution on food security is a “must” and India cannot wait endlessly in a state of uncertainty while the WTO engages in an academic debate on the subject of food security.
The government said India cannot accept the “unrealistic” proposal of the developed world on subsidies on food grain stock holding and wanted “timely correction of any imbalances or anomalies in the working of the system or its rules” to ensure that the WTO “works impartially and fairly in the interest of all its members and not just a select few”.
Sitharaman said India is an “unwavering votary” of the multilateral trading system and reiterates its commitment to the WTO. “We continue to believe that it is in the best interest of developing countries, especially the poorest, most marginalised ones among them, and we are determined to work to strengthen this institution,” she said against the backdrop of the US blaming India for stalling an agreement at the recent talks in Geneva.
Emphasising that India will not waver in its commitment to protect interests of consumers and producers, Sitharaman said: “Developing countries such as India must have the freedom to use food reserves to feed their poor without the threat of violating any international obligations. This is our sovereign right. It is our duty to protect our citizens’ fundamental rights to life and livelihood.”
In the Rajya Sabha too, Sitharaman read out a statement on India’s stand in the WTO. After the minister’s statement was over, Opposition members wanted the chair to allow clarifications on this issue on Wednesday.
Deputy Chairman P J Kurien said while he agrees with the members’ demand for clarification, timing will be decided on Wednesday after consultation with the government.