A setback, say civil society groups

Civil society groups are “extremely disappointed” about India accepting a peace clause with conditionality on its food and farm subsidies at the Bali World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial with no assured mechanism for finding a permanent solution.

They are unhappy that India has opened up its farm and food domestic policies, programmes and mechanisms to international scrutiny with large data and reporting mechanisms to be put into place thus losing sovereign control over decision-making on foodgrains stocks and procurement.

Expressing “deep disappointment” with the hype over “India’s win”, the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture said “India lost a historical opportunity” of correcting deep-seated problems with the WTO on trade and agriculture rules that were tilted against the developing countries.

“India has wilted under pressure from the U.S. and agreed to accept conditionality to the Peace Clause that were not part of the G-33 proposal,” said the Right to Food Campaign.

Questioning the media hype, Director of Gene Campaign and activist Suman Sahai pointed out that India fell into the trap of discussing subsidy limits and ‘ de minimis ’ (minimum) support in agriculture when it should have argued on the basis of hunger and malnutrition in India and that any attempt by the Indian government to act on it cannot possibly be placed under the purview of WTO sanctions. “Ceding trade facilitation means that post-Bali we should expect an influx of heavily subsidised agri produce from outside,” she said.

According to Vandana Shiva of Navdanya, India should have insisted that an audit of free trade be done, instead of accepting further trade liberalisation, and giving in to the “peace clause” — which postpones putting food security and food sovereignty at the centre of trade in agriculture.

“Avoiding a total meltdown of the WTO is being touted as a breakthrough, which just shows how de-legitimate the corporate-led model of trade liberalisation, embodied by the WTO, has become,” was how Our World Is Not For Sale (OWINFS), a global network of NGOs reacted to the developments.

Asked by The Hindu to respond, former union secretary E.A.S. Sarma said the civil society’s view seemed to have driven the government into adopting a pro-people stance at the WTO, though “worrisome facts” remain such as negotiating a Parliament-enacted law in an external forum and not taking the States’ views on board in a federal system.

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Printable version | May 11, 2022 1:06:28 am |