Even as the World Trade Organisation’s trade deal remained stalled due to India’s objections, an Indian envoy at the UN stood firm on them, declaring a “permanent solution on food security with necessary changes in World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, if required, is a must and cannot be kicked down the road”.
Amit Narang, a Counsellor at India’s UN Mission, has said that the trade agreement cannot be “about negotiating livelihood security and subsistence of hundreds of millions of farmers”.
While New Delhi was committed to the decisions reached at a meeting of ministers last December in Bali that form the core of the trade deal “and has no intention of going back on them,” he said, “The issue of food security is central to the pursuit of poverty eradication and sustainable development in developing countries and must be treated with the same urgency as other issues, if not more.”
The WTO’s deal on global trade, known as the Doha Round for the place where the current negotiations were launched in 2001, has been blocked almost single-handedly by India over the agriculture issues.
On Tuesday, in Geneva, WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo acknowledged the impasse and announced that negotiations would continue. “I will be convening meetings, but as always, the substance will be up to you. Whether, and how, we make progress will be in your hands,” he was quoted as telling the 160-member organisation.
The crux of India’s objections are the WTO limits on agriculture subsidies at 10 per cent of the total value of foodgrain production and on stockpiling foodgrains. Complying with the Food Security Act passed last year that guarantees subsidised foodgrains to about 70 percent of the nation’s population could result in breaching these limits leading to penalties for India.
Acknowledging that concluding the Doha Round was urgent, Narang told the UN General Assembly Committee that deals with finance and economics, “We must be clear that this Round is not about the perpetuation of structural flaws in global trade, especially in agriculture.”
He added, “It is indeed paradoxical that just as we assign a high priority to food security as part of the Post-2015 Development Agenda and even as it has been included as a prominent (UN) Sustainable Development Goal, there seems reluctance in addressing this important issue as part of global trade rules.”
India has been under pressure from several countries, particularly the US, to drop its objections to the deal known formally as the Trade Facilitation Agreement.
Narang, Tuesday at the same committee, raised a global financial issue that has been held up by the US and suggested exploring options to end the impasse.
A proposal to reform the governance of the International Monetary Fund and change its votes quota that was agreed upon in 2010 and has the support of President Obama’s administration has been snagged in domestic US politics, failing to gain the requisite votes to pass at the IMF.
“It is important for these reforms to be completed by the end of this year,” he said. “In case this does not happen due to non-ratification by some members, we must explore every available option for completing the current round of the quota reform process.”
The reforms would enhance the voting powers of India and emerging market and developing countries to reflect that changes in the world economy.
Narang said, “We need to have multilateral mechanisms that have full and effective participation of developing countries, if genuine global coordination is to be achieved.”