WTO – India’s Stand

  • WTO meeting is going to be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • At next month’s meeting of the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) highest decision-making body, India will not compromise on its interests including ensuring food security as well as protecting its resource-poor and low-income farmers and fisher-folk.
  • India will hold firm on its position against the inclusion of new issues such as ‘e-commerce’ and ‘investment facilitation’ into the ongoing round of multilateral trade negotiations, without first resolving the outstanding ones including food security.
  • Besides, India will make sure that the ‘development agenda’ (to improve the developing countries’ trading prospects) of the talks, which began in Doha in 2001, is not subverted.
  • India will stand firm on all the issues that it has raised so far, and will not make any compromise or dilute its stand. We will not directly or indirectly reduce our ability to push our own agenda forward.
  • Also, the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) is not dead. The DDA is as important as it was before and it will be taken forward.
  • Prabhu said the highest priority for India was to ensure that a ‘permanent solution’ on the issue of public stockholding for food security purposes is a part of the Buenos Aires meeting outcomes.
  • Prabhu’s predecessor Nirmala Sitharaman had said, “without a permanent solution, public stockholding programmes in India and other developing countries will be hampered by the present ceiling on domestic support which is pegged at 10% of the value of production, and is wrongly considered as trade-distorting subsidy to farmers under existing WTO rules.
  • “The existence of such a subsidy element is determined by comparing present day administered prices with fixed reference prices of the 1986-88 period which is unrealistic. Developing countries are finding themselves hamstrung by the existing rules in running their food stockholding and domestic food aid programmes.”
  • Currently, an interim mechanism called the ‘Peace Clause’ is available for developing nations including India, according to which they cannot be challenged at the WTO Dispute Settlement Mechanism (DSM) even if they breach the cap of the product-specific domestic support (10% of the value of production).
  • However, Mr. Prabhu said India “will insist on a permanent solution that is much better than the Peace Clause.”
  • Since a country that wants to invoke the Peace Clause has to comply with several stringent conditions (on notification and transparency and commitment on prohibition of exports from public stockholding), India is keen that a ‘permanent solution’ does not have onerous riders.
  • He also said meaningful reforms in agriculture can happen only when the disproportionately large subsidies of the developed countries are reduced.
  • On talks to eliminate ‘harmful’ fisheries subsidies, the minister said “India will protect its small and subsistence fisherfolk, and we want sustainable fishing. We want subsidies for small fisherfolk to continue.”
  • In addition, at the WTO talks, India will also “very aggressively” push its proposal for Trade Facilitation in Services (which, among other things, aims to ease norms on the movement of skilled workers and professionals across borders for short-term work.
  • Criticising attempts by certain countries to undermine the WTO’s DSM by blocking the appointment of new judges, the minister said, “the DSM is an important pillar on which the entire multilateral trading system stands.
  • We will not allow it to be be weakened. Efforts must be taken to quickly fill in the vacancies as, without judges, the DSM will not be able to function.

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