WTO food security row: US refuses to engage with India on permanent solution to public stock-holding issue

Buenos Aires: Talks at the 11th Ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is on the brink of collapse, with the US refusing to engage in the effort to find a permanent solution to the public stock holding issue, official sources said.

On the third-day of the conference here, Assistant US trade representative Sharon Bomer Lauritsen in a small group meeting said that to the food stock-holding issue was not acceptable to America, the sources said.

With the US not participating in the negotiation on the crucial issue, which the 11th ministerial is mandated to deliver, talks will collapse, said an official.

India has all through been maintaining that a permanent solution to food stockpile issue was a "must have" at the ongoing ministerial and failure to do so would impact the credibility of the strong multilateral trade institution.

The Indian team led by Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu, in cooperation with the G33 grouping, is pitching hard for permanent solution to food security issue as it is crucial for livelihood of 800 million people across the globe.

The four-day ministerial conference which began on Sunday ends on Wednesday with very little time for any substantial retrieval of positions by the WTO members.

With talks on crucial food stockpile issue reaching a deadlock, the other issues like services, fisheries and e-commerce too will not make any headway.

In his plenary address, Prabhu had emphasised that WTO members must find a permanent solution to the public food-stockpile issue.

Suresh Prabhu. Image courtesy PIB

Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu. Image courtesy PIB

Under the global trade norms, a WTO member country's food subsidy bill should not breach the limit of 10 percent of the value of production based on the reference price of 1986-88.

Apprehending that full implementation of food security programme may result in breach of the WTO cap, India has been seeking amendments in the formula to calculate the food subsidy cap.

As an interim measure, the WTO members at the Bali ministerial meeting in December 2013 had agreed to put in place a mechanism popularly called the Peace Clause and committed to a permanent solution to negotiate an agreement at the 11th ministerial meeting at Buenos Aires.

Under the Peace Clause, WTO members agreed to refrain from challenging any breach in prescribed ceiling by a developing nation at the dispute settlement forum of the WTO. This clause will be there till a permanent solution is found to the food stockpiling issue.

India has also rejected the US criticism on seeking differential treatment at the WTO saying the country was the 'right candidate' and a legitimate demand for special dispensation as it has to take care of 600 million poor people.

Prabhu said the special and differential treatment was an integral part of the WTO and was meant for nations with low per capital income.

Eminent farm scientist M S Swaminathan on Tuesday said ending hunger and ensuring food security should be the basis for negotiations on agriculture at the WTO and appreciated India's
strong stand on food security.

In a series of tweets, Swaminathan -- credited for India's Green Revolution -- said Prabhu, "deserves gratitude" for indicating at the ongoing WTO Ministerial Meeting that there will be no compromise on food security.

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Updated Date: Dec 13, 2017 08:56:12 IST

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