The Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movement on Friday urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh not to accept at the ninth World Trade Organisation ministerial meeting the ‘Peace Clause’, which is a time-bound immunity against penalty for breaching the 10 per cent ceiling on farm subsidy provided to developing countries like India. The panel comprises farmers’ groups in various States and State units of the Bhartiya Kisan Union.
“It is sad that the United Progressive Alliance government, in a hasty move, agreed for this temporary reprieve instead of holding to its original position for a permanent solution through changes in the Agreement on Agriculture [AoA], i.e. allowing such subsidies under the green box, which contains no conditionality on subsidy limits. This would have removed the imbalance in the AoA, whereby the developed countries have the flexibility to provide high subsidy directly to their population in the form of food stamps, but developing countries are unable to meet similar objectives,” the committee said in a letter written to Dr. Singh.
“By accepting the ‘Peace Clause’, India may help with the deal on Trade Facilitation and the successful end of the WTO Ministerial in Indonesia, but the Congress-led UPA will be condemned for compromising price support system (or minimum support price) which provides livelihood support to millions of subsistence farmers and ensures adequate food production for public stockholding essential to run the food security programme in India, home for one third of world’s hungry population,” the letter said.
“As an eminent economist, it must be clear to you that India can ensure food security only by supporting both production and consumption. Weakening the production, as the ‘Peace Clause’ is bound to do, will not help food access. The Indian government has to defend its right to freely procure food from 600 million farmers and get it across to its 870 million hungry people in the country,” the letter said.
It said that the European Union and the United States interest in the WTO were to get market access in developing countries, while at the same time protect their farmers and agri-business through doling out huge subsidies. “In the last 18 years of the WTO regime, the U.S. and E.U. have not fulfilled any of their commitment on reduction of their subsidies, rather, are openly continuing their domestic subsidies as well as export subsidies.”
The letter is in a series of protests expressed by political parties, former bureaucrats and civil society groups in the country in the run-up to the Bali ministerial beginning on Tuesday.