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Food subsidies need protection from coercive WTO rules: Sharma

"An outcome in Bali that addressed only the proposals of the developed countries would not be acceptable to India."

Unless India’s minimum support prices for farmers and food subsidies are safeguarded against the rules of the World Trade Organisation, the Ninth WTO Ministerial scheduled for next month in Bali could fail, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma has warned.

Mr. Sharma told WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo on the phone on Tuesday that an outcome in Bali that addressed only the proposals of the developed countries would not be acceptable to India, according to sources in the government.

The Minister has sought an urgent meeting of the Cabinet Committee on WTO as the country’s administered MSP was at “serious risk of breaching” the WTO’s permissible subsidy levels. “Our estimation shows that India will exceed de minimis,” top Commerce Ministry officials told The Hindu.

Over the past weeks, India was locked in hectic negotiations in Geneva with the rich countries to find a way to permanently safeguard its food security and food subsidies from WTO disciplines. One of the most fiercely contested proposals in the Bali package is the one on permissible levels of subsidies in agriculture.

India has not managed to have its preferred position included in the draft for Bali. Proposed amendments will be reviewed on the morning of December 5, after which the final text will be submitted for the Ministerial.

Though the draft did not offer a permanent solution, it did propose a peace clause that offered India a breathing space on its MSP and food procurement programme until the 11th Ministerial, the officials said adding that the clause provided that no country would be able to initiate action against another that was in breach of the WTO caps.

“The peace clause averts the possibility of India’s food security law running foul of the WTO’s Agreement on Agriculture but not against the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures for which negotiations are going on in Geneva,” an official said.

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Printable version | May 31, 2020 2:40:34 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/food-subsidies-need-protection-from-coercive-wto-rules-sharma/article5372853.ece

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