India to pitch for permanent solution for food security in WTO meet: Official

NEW DELHI: India will pitch for finding a permanent solution to the issue of public stock holding for food security purposes in the forthcoming meeting of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) at Geneva, starting from November 30, an official said.

The official expressed hope that “something may come” up on public stockholding and domestic support, which are part of negotiations on the agriculture sector, in the 12th ministerial conference, which is the highest decision making body of the 164-member WTO.

The four-day ministerial conference will begin from November 30.

“Now that the 12th meeting is approaching, a number of submissions are being made at the WTO for advancing negotiations in agriculture. India along with the G33 (group of nations) has been engaging in achieving a permanent solution to the public stockholding issue,” the government official said.

The official added that the public stockholding (PSH) is must for India because it has a mandate, which goes back a long period of time and India will pitch for that.

Finding a permanent solution to the public food stockpile issue is linked to the survival of 800 million hungry people across the globe.

Under the global trade norms, a WTO member’s food subsidy bill should not breach the limit of 10 per cent of the value of production based on the reference price of 1986-88. Apprehending that full implementation of the 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 negotiating an agreement for permanent solution at the 11th ministerial meeting at Buenos Aires.

Under the Peace Clause, WTO members agreed to refrain from challenging any breach in the 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 invoked the clause in 2018-19 (13 per cent) and 2019-20 (11 per cent) as it breached the subsidy cap for rice.

The current discourse in agriculture negotiations at the WTO includes developed members seeking developing countries to take on additional commitments in terms of enhanced market access, reduction in policy space through reduced domestic support.

India is also co-sponsoring a G33 proposal for a permanent solution on PSH for food security purposes at the WTO on September 15.

The chair of the committee on agriculture-special session of the WTO has come up with a draft ministerial text on PSH for the 12th ministerial conference wherein two options have been proposed including to continue negotiations on PSH beyond the 12th meeting.

India has not agreed to these options, the official said.

The seven negotiating areas under agriculture are domestic support, market access, export competition, export restrictions, cotton, special safeguard mechanism, public stockholding for food security purposes and transparency.


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