India stands isolated at the Bali Ministerial of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in its efforts to seek safeguards for subsidies poor countries give to their farmers for food security purposes.

Of the key G33 countries, China, an exports-led economy, has not lent vocal support to the India’s position for a Bali package as its interests lie with the G20 proposal on trade facilitation. Pakistan has opposed India’s proposal for subsidies to poor farmers on the grounds that they distort trade in rice. “India exports only basmati for which MSP is not given to farmers,” said official sources. Some support for India has come only from Indonesia.

On Monday, India blamed the rich countries led by the United States for negotiations for a Bali package having hit the wall. India has also accused the rich countries of double standards on the issue of subsidies for farmers.

Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma, who leads the 30-member Indian delegation for the Ministerial conference, said in his address to the G33 here on Monday: “It is ironic that let alone trying to address this crucial issue, the developed countries demonstrated little appetite even to discuss it”.

He said, “It is unfortunate that even though the G33 has shown flexibility by agreeing to discuss an interim solution, there were efforts to make the solution redundant through elaborate procedural formalities in the name of safeguards against trade distortion and transparency.”

Session from Tuesday

The three-day Ministerial will start on Tuesday. The rich countries are pressing the G33 countries to agree to their preferred treaty for trade facilitation. “It’s a question of who will blink first,” said highly placed sources.

“We can no longer allow the interests of over two-thirds of humanity and an overwhelming majority of the poor and subsistence farmers… at the altar of mercantilist ambitions,” Mr. Sharma said attacking the substantial subsidies to farmers by the rich countries that do not face the restrictions.

“The massive subsidisation of the farm sector in the developed countries is not even a subject matter of discussion, leave aside serious negotiation.”

Negotiations are on though without much progress between the rich countries on the one hand and India-led G33 on the other.

The negotiators haven’t so far settled on texts for the three main issues — a new trade facilitation treaty, changes in agriculture rules relevant to food security and benefits for least developed countries.

India wants that the interim safeguards being proposed in Bali for subsidies poor countries give to their farmers for food security purposes against the WTO’s disciplines should not expire before a permanent solution is found — something the rich countries are not agreeing to. “When protracted negotiations have not yielded any consensus, how can we accept an artificial sunset in this case?” Mr. Sharma said.

Public stockholding for food security purposes is one of the items under the ‘Green Box’ of the WTO’s Agreement on Agriculture. Means they are permissible subject to certain conditions as they are seen as minimally or non-trade distorting. The contentious condition is that food purchases by the government shall be made at current market prices.

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