Kisan Sabha, Third World Network oppose “peace clause”

Even as the All-India Kisan Sabha and Third World Network urged India not to agree to a “peace clause” in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations on subsidies for public stock holding for food security, the Commerce Ministry on Thursday said India will settle for it “only as an interim solution leading to a permanent solution.”

Reacting to a letter written by former bureaucrat E.A.S. Sarma to UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi on agreeing to limit food security to four years under a “peace clause” in WTO, the Ministry said draft ministerial declaration on the subject awaits a decision by relevant governments and is not an agreed position in the WTO.

“India has maintained that its position on the subject in the WTO is in line with the government’s resolve to offer food security on a lasting basis to the targeted population. India’s position does not contradict or conflict with its commitment under the National Food Security Act and remains aligned to stated national policy,” the Ministry said.

It said that “the text of draft ministerial declaration for consideration offers restraint from challenge under the WTO Dispute Settlement Mechanism till 11 Ministerial Conference at which time Ministers are expected to decide ‘next steps’ as a follow up to a work programme to begin post-Bali.”

“Protect farmers”

Meanwhile, rejecting the interim solution offered by WTO Director-General Roberto Azvedo to the G-33 proposal, the Kisan Sabha called upon the government to “intervene” in the negotiations to protect the livelihoods of millions of farmers and remain committed to India’s sovereign right to decide its price support policy as well as the food security programme. “The peace clause or due restraint clause will have adverse implications for the food grains procurement policy and food security programme of the country.”

The Agreement on Agriculture only allows ‘de minimis’ subsidy of 10 per cent of production cost which defies logic calculated as it is on a fixed reference price of 1986-88 when prices were much lower. “This reflects inflated subsidies while remaining totally oblivious to the present day global agricultural prices. It also calculates subsidy on the basis of total production rather than actual procurement.”

“A matter of concern is that all elements of the G-33 proposal have now been rejected for consideration in Bali and a peace clause (or due restraint clause) is currently the only element being discussed at the WTO. A peace clause means that the use of such subsidies is still illegal but WTO members will not go to dispute settlement for this period,” the Third World Network comprising 270 civil society groups, has said in a letter written to Mr. Azvedo.

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