The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has committed itself to find a permanent solution on public stockholding for food security purposes by December 31, 2015. The WTO’s General Council also unequivocally agreed to delink the negotiations for a permanent solution on public stockholding for food security purposes from the agriculture negotiations on other issues under the Doha Development Agenda.
This would ensure that the negotiations for a permanent solution would continue even if the negotiations on such other issues are delayed, Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in Parliament on Friday.
Late on Thursday, the WTO’s General Council adopted a decision on public stockholding for food security purposes, on the Trade Facilitation Agreement and also on post-Bali work.
“I am making this intervention in the House today in order to place before the Hon’ble Members the facts relating to recent developments in the World Trade Organization, which came to a successful conclusion yesterday, vindicating the principled stand taken by India,” Ms. Sitharaman said.
On 5 August, she had informed Parliament that India had decided not to join the consensus in the WTO on the implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement till concerns relating to the implementation of other Bali Ministerial decisions, in particular, the one on public stockholding for food security purposes, were addressed.
“I am happy to report to this House that we have been able to secure an outcome that addresses our concerns,” Ms. Sitharaman said on Friday.
The General Council decision on food security is a new, unambiguous decision, the Minister said. “It makes it clear that a mechanism, under which WTO Members will not challenge the public stockholding programmes of developing country members for food security purposes, in relation to certain obligations under the WTO Agreement on Agriculture, will remain in place in perpetuity until a permanent solution regarding this issue has been agreed and adopted.”
This would do away with any ambiguity on this aspect as well as guard against the possibility of no cover being available after 2017 in case a permanent solution is not arrived at by then, she said.
She also said that there was a firm commitment to engage in negotiations for a permanent solution through an intensified programme of work. The provision for dedicated sessions in an accelerated time frame for taking forward the negotiations will ensure that that the WTO accords priority to this issue and works on it in a focused manner, she said. It would, moreover, avert the danger that countries like India would have to make concessions in some other area of the agriculture negotiations, in order to achieve a permanent solution, the Minister said.