Cabinet will discuss draft declaration and proposed Peace Clause

India’s interest will be “secured” and the country’s sovereign space and right will be “non-negotiable” at the 9th World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial Conference in Bali, Union Commerce Minister Anand Sharma has said in a communication to Leaders of Opposition in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, as well as of major political parties.

Next week, the Union Cabinet will consider a mandate on India’s position at the WTO on several issues, including trade facilitation and the Agreement on Agriculture.

The Cabinet will discuss the draft declaration and the proposed “Peace Clause” that will give India a “protective umbrella” against penalty for breaching permissible food subsidy limits in WTO. Some of the developed countries have raised concerns over India’s food security law which they say will “distort markets.”

The issue has assumed serious proportions as apprehensions have been expressed in several quarters about India’s stand which might be against the Parliament enacted National Food Security Act that provides for subsidised foodgrains to 67 per cent population.

On Saturday, Chairman of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce and former Union Food Minister Shanta Kumar urged the government not to accept the current formulation of a “Peace Clause” offered by WTO chief with regard to the Agreement on Agriculture and the Policy Space related to food security as it will impact India’s small and marginal farmers.

Declaring that he intends to discuss the issue in the Standing Committee, he said, “Since food security is a matter of utmost importance for the country, the subject requires wider consultation in Parliament and with State governments.”

In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Mr. Kumar said he had received representations from farmers’ organisations expressing concern over the “proposed Peace Clause [for agriculture subsidies] as part of the Bali package, which is a temporary measure [to ward off disputes] with unfavourable conditionality.”

“It is apprehended that the Peace Clause which is contained in the negotiating text would disturb our procurement system, thereby adversely affecting small and marginal farmers through MSP. I think the conditions imposed by the WTO are not in the interest of our farmers.”

On Friday, the former Union Secretary E.A.S. Sarma appealed to Chief Ministers to “question the appropriateness of the Centre in taking any stand at the WTO negotiations that could compromise the National Food Security Act and the States’ own food security schemes.”

In a letter to all Chief Ministers he asserted that in a federal system, the political executive at the Centre has an obligation to take States into confidence in all such matters. “The implications of the Peace Clause were not discussed adequately in Parliament. Such an approach defies the spirit of our Constitution and makes light of the supremacy of Parliament. It should, therefore, be resisted by the States.’’

Earlier he had written to UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and all parliamentarians on the issue.

More In: National | News