India Manages To Shield Farmers’ Interests, Ensure Food Security At WTO

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India managed to protect its farmers’ interests and ensure food security for its poor even as the ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) is unlikely to yield much progress.

A series of work programmes on issues such as agriculture, domestic support, fisheries subsidies, e-commerce and services are expected, increasing the chances of some progress in next ministerial meet in 2019.

“India’s food security programmes are protected because we have a peace clause of 2014. India’s ability to provide procurement at minimum support price to farmers is intact,” said JS Deepak, India’s permanent representative to the WTO.

India wanted to amend the Agreement on Agriculture to get a permanent solution over and above the existing peace clause to give stronger legal strength to its programme to purchase, stockpile and distribute food. However, the US’ stance that it would not allow any outcome on agriculture, proved to be a deal breaker. It is learnt that the developed countries didn’t want to mention Doha Development Agenda in the final text which reduced the possibility of any package coming out.

“India has nothing to lose. Public stockholding is one of our interest areas. It is a setback to the WTO process if they couldn’t meet the mandate of finding a solution,” said another official. Farmers Lament Government’s Insensitivity To Agricultural Development

Officials say the existing peace clause that India secured in 2014, continues to provide it with the cover wherein no country can take legal action against it if it fails to limit its public procurement of foodgrains such as wheat and rice to within 10% of value of the crop as mandated by the WTO.

The 2017 deadline was for a permanent solution to the issue, creating confusion that the peace clause would also end and India would not have any protection. India also wanted a change in the Dispute Settlement Understanding (DSU), the WTO agreement that covers dispute settlement.