World trade talks stutter over India stand

  • Noopur Tiwari, Hindustan Times, Paris
  • Updated: Jul 30, 2014 07:27 IST

Global trade negotiators met at the World Trade Organization (WTO) headquarters on Tuesday to break an impasse after India took a firm stand last week that it will only back a worldwide reform of customs rules — the so-called trade facilitation agreement (TFA) — if its demands on rules for state food procurement were implemented in the same timeframe.

WTO director-general Roberto Azevêdo called an emergency meeting on Tuesday with the co-ordinators from 15 groups, representing a vast cross-section of the WTO membership.

He said WTO members should be on call to meet again on short notice to resolve the crisis.

Keith Rockwell, spokesperson for WTO, told HT that the impasse has raised “deep concerns” among members on the future of Doha Round negotiations of which 10 Bali agreements are a part.

“Director-general Azevêdo briefed the coordinators on the state of play and outlined the steps he has taken so far and the actions he plans to take in the coming hours.” said Rockwell.

US Ambassador Michael Punke had issued a scathing response to India’s stand at the WTO saying “a small handful of members in this organisation are ready to walk away from their commitments at Bali, to kill the Bali agreement…to flip the lights in this building back to dark”.

India has made it clear that it will continue to oppose the TFA’s adoption if the deal doesn’t come bundled with a permanent solution that will allow unhindered roll-out of welfare schemes such as the food security programme.

Existing rules cap the value of food subsidies at 10% of the value of production. But the way the support is calculated at prices of more than two decades earlier means many countries would find it difficult to stay within the limit potentially attracting strong penalties from the trade body, government sources said.

This could affect India’s food security programme and food grain procurement through the minimum support prices (MSP).

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