The Chairman of the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Basudeb Acharia, has sought an all-party meeting on India’s position at the ninth ministerial conference of the WTO in Bali next week, even as the Right to Food Campaign urged the government to reject the ‘Peace Clause’ that allows India a temporary reprieve from legal action against breaching permissible levels of support to public stockholding of cereals and subsidy for food security programme.
The Campaign wants the WTO to focus on rectifying “historical imbalances” such as a limit on subsidies under the Agreement on Agriculture. It is sending a two-member team to Bali to take part in the parallel civil society meetings.
In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Mr. Acharia said the matter should not only be discussed in Parliament but should also have the concurrence of the State governments. “Until consensus is gained, no step should be taken.”
“It appears that the government is least bothered to evaluate the impact the ‘Peace Clause’ will have on the Food Security Act and the Minimum Support Price [regime]. If India agrees to such a clause, it will put a cap on MSP. Most farmers’ unions have rightly said India should not barter away its food security concerns and the livelihood security of millions of farmers for the trade facilitation agreement.”
Earlier, Union Commerce Minister Anand Sharma, in a letter to Mr. Acharia, explained that at his meetings with the U.S. Trade Representative, he had underscored the need for an “interim understanding which can be termed a ‘Peace Clause’ since a final agreement on agriculture is difficult, given the short window of time. This is important to ensure that India and similarly- laced countries are not faulted for breach of WTO obligations.”