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Food scheme India’s top agenda at WTO conference

business Updated: Nov 29, 2013 01:55 IST
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India appears to have conditionally agreed to a “peace clause” for a four-year interim measure allowing unhindered rollout of the flagship programme that legally entitles subsidised food-grains to nearly two-thirds of the population without violating rules defined by the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

But India, and some other developing countries nations, are also demanding a protection that if a permanent multi-lateral consensus is not hammered out within four years, the period should be extended. India, sources said, will likely press for this protection to be inserted in the form of a declaration or an agreement.

The 9th ministerial conference of WTO will be held in Bali, Indonesia from December 3 to December 6.

India has passed a new Food Security Act setting the stage for the roll-out one of the biggest welfare schemes of the UPA government in an election year.

Developing countries want a deal to allow them to increase their ceiling on food subsidies above what is permissible currently as well as a package for the least developed countries.

Developed nations have shown support for a “peace clause” that would agree to developing countries’ demands on food security for a period of four years.

India has been pressing the WTO to find a permanent solution to a dispute over allowing developing countries the right to provide higher levels of food subsidies for their poor.

The 62-page WTO draft text, talks about settling the issue within four years or by the 11th ministerial conference, without calling it a peace clause.

Food minister KV Thomas on Thursday said the food law is an extension of existing welfare schemes.

“It is not something new. It is existing,” Thomas told reporters.

“India will ensure that our national interest including those of our subsistence farmers in the poor and vulnerable sections of the society are fully protected. We have made it abundantly clear that all parties must commit to work effectively for a post-Bali work programme,” a government source said.