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BW Businessworld

India Blames WTO For Deadlock

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India has blamed the World trade Organisation (WTO) for creating a deadlock in the ratification of trade facilitation agreement (TFA) by engaging in a mere academic debate on the subject of food security while pushing hard to build a consensus on the TFA.
“It is regrettable indeed that today the WTO is unable to agree even to fast track negotiations on an issue of such importance to millions of subsistence farmers across the developing world, while the rich world can continue to subsidise their farmers unabatedly”, she said.
In a statement made in the Lok Sabha today (5 August), Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that a permanent solution on food security was a must for India. Explaining the reason why India opposed the TFA, she said that the country “took the stand that till there is an assurance of commitment to find a permanent solution on public stockholding and on all other Bali deliverables, including those for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), it would be difficult to join the consensus on the Protocol of Amendment for the Trade Facilitation Agreement.
According to the minister, India found that in contrast to their efforts on TFA in the WTO, some developed countries have been reluctant to engage on other issues like food security. “Seeing the resistance to taking forward the other decisions, the apprehension of developing countries was that once the process of bringing the Trade Facilitation Agreement into force was completed, other issues would be ignored, including the important issue of a permanent solution on subsidies on account of public stockholding for food security purposes”.
The minister also pointed out that “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 per cent of the value of production and is wrongly considered as trade-distorting subsidy to farmers under existing WTO rules”.
The TFA is aimed at greater transparency and simplification of customs procedures, use of electronic payments and risk management techniques and faster clearances at ports. Sitharaman said that India has already taken several similar measures such as the 'Indian Customs Single Window Project' announced in the Budget 2014-15 to facilitate trade, under which importers and exporters will be able to lodge documents at a single point, reducing interface with governmental agencies, dwell time and the cost of doing business.
The Bali Ministerial Declaration was adopted on 7 December 2013 on conclusion of the Ninth Ministerial Conference of the WTO in Bali. Ministerial Decisions were adopted on ten issues relating to the Doha Development Agenda which is the agenda for the unfinished Doha Round of trade negotiations, underway in the WTO since 2001. Amongst these Ministerial Decisions, two are of particular significance — the Ministerial Decision for an Agreement on Trade Facilitation and the Ministerial Decision on Public Stockholding for Food Security Purposes.
The Protocol of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) was to be adopted by 31 July 2014 by the WTO. After this the Agreement would automatically come into force from 31 July 2015 if ratified by two-thirds of the members of the WTO.