World Trade Organization: India, China voice same agri concerns at WTO

NEW DELHI: India and China have called on the members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to dispel long-standing concerns about public storage and special protective measures in order to give priority to protecting against an increase in agricultural imports, as the member countries have tried beforehand to resolve differences bridge a ministerial meeting later this year.
During a special meeting on Wednesday, India underscored the need to find a permanent solution to public food storage, an issue it fears could harm food security in developing countries, including its own ability to sell grain for the public distribution program procure, given the cap imposed in the agreement signed 25 years ago. While WTO membership has agreed to a “peace clause” preventing any country from raising a dispute in the event of a border crossing, India wants a final settlement, an issue China also highlighted.
Despite their dispute, India and China hold similar positions at the WTO on agricultural trade issues that are resonating with larger audiences in developing countries. At Wednesday’s meeting, Indonesia, one of the main reasons for the still-burning problem, also appeared to support India’s case for food stockpiling as it also called for special safeguards to be taken.
Despite efforts to move the agricultural trade agenda forward, none of the countries appeared to have changed their position. While the US didn’t have a firm stance, according to sources in Geneva, the European Union tied the issue of public storage with reforms in domestic architecture to support farms, something the government had criticized in the past, arguing that developed countries have their pounds of meat extracted by getting countries like India to sign the Trade Facilitation Agreement.
For the industrialized countries, the old Doha Round is about setting trade-distorting agricultural subsidies, opening their doors to foreign skilled workers through more ambitious reforms in the service sector, and revising some elements of the agreements that adversely affect the interests of the poor and poor in developing countries now gone off the radar as they push for global rules on 21st century issues such as investment facilitation, e-commerce and women in retail. The challenge facing the new WTO Director General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is to bridge the gap. In an interview with TOI, she had acknowledged that there was a great lack of trust between the members.

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