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WTO: India concerned over slow pace of talks on food security

business Updated: Jun 11, 2014 21:14 IST

India on Wednesday expressed serious dissatisfaction over slow progress on negotiations over food security issues agreed at the WTO's Bali meeting of trade ministers last year.

Commerce Secretary Rajeev Kher said developed members of the WTO are moving fast on the trade facilitation agreement, but the pace of negotiations on the food security issue and the matter of least developed countries is slow.

"As far as TFA follow-up is concerned, discussions are going well, but I am afraid that the discussion on rest of the issues relating to LDCs and FS issues, which India has championed along with G-33 and several other developing members, has not received the same attention as we have thought and therefore we are very closely observing what is happening in the WTO," he told reporters in New Delhi.

In the WTO's Ministerial meeting in Bali in December last year, members have agreed to finalise on Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) and find a permanent solution to unhindered implementation of food security (FS) scheme of India and other developing countries so that these programmes do not attract any multilateral scrutiny.

Kher said India has communicated its concern to other WTO members in Geneva.

"We have raised this issue many times and we would like to see that all issues under Bali Ministerial decision are given adequate weight, concentration and the membership solve all of them in the same breadth," he added.

Overcoming a string of failures over the years, the WTO had reached an agreement that can help boost global trade by USD 1 trillion, while taking on board concerns of countries like India to protect its food security scheme to provide subsidised grains to the poor.

The Trade Facilitation Agreement is being pushed by the US and other developed world as they seek to bolster their sagging economies through an unhindered international trade by way of a uniform and easy procedures at customs.

"There is strong desire among the developing countries particularly LDCs (least developed countries) that the pace of work on the two issues should be the same as it is for TFA. In terms of trying to achieve a single undertaking on all the issues.

"We have informed the membership that this way of development will make it very difficult for developing country to lend their support to otherwise an imbalanced process of work," Kher added.

On the food security issue, he said although a protection has been given to India and other countries which have implemented similar schemes, "we are very keen and eager that we should work towards finding a permanent solution".

"Our request to the (WTO) membership has been that let there be a clear decision on a pathway of work for finding a permanent solution. We propose to intensify our actions in the coming days...A permanent solution will give certainty and predictability," he said.

India's ambitious food security law aims at providing highly subsidised foodgrain to its 800 million poor people as also continuation of the support price for the farmers.