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HindustanTimes Sat,25 Oct 2014

'India talking to WTO members on food subsidy issue'

PTI  New Delhi, September 03, 2014
First Published: 18:11 IST(3/9/2014) | Last Updated: 18:14 IST(3/9/2014)

India is talking to "good number" of countries to garner support on its stand on the food security issue at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) with a view to carry forward the talks for freer trade.

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The WTO has resumed work at Geneva from September 1 after a month long vacation.

"We will start from where we have left. The bottom line is already made clear. We are willing to talk but achieve the same objectives in whatever manner," Commerce Secretary Rajeev Kher told reporters in New Delhi.

He said that it was now upto the WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo to convene meetings in the form of either calling heads of delegation or in smaller groups.

"We are talking to few countries... a good number of countries," Kher said when asked whether India is engaging with other WTO members to garner support on its tough stand which led to failure of talks in Geneva.

At its last meeting at Geneva on July 31, the 160-member WTO failed to agree on a global customs pact popularly called as the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA).

India had decided not to ratify WTO's TFA, which is dear to the developed world, without any concrete movement in finding a permanent solution to its public food stock-holding issue for food security purposes.

New Delhi has asked WTO to amend the norms for calculating agriculture subsidies so that the country could continue to procure foodgrains from farmers at minimum support price and sell them to poor at cheaper rates without violating the norms.

The current WTO norms limit the value of food subsidies at 10 per cent of the total value of foodgrain production. However, the quantum of subsidy is computed after taking into consideration prices that prevailed two decades ago.

India is asking for a change in the base year (1986-88) for calculating food subsidy as it would capture the impact of inflation and currency movements over the years.

There are apprehensions that once India completely implements its food security programme, it could breach the 10 per cent cap. Breach of the cap may lead to imposition of hefty penalties, if a member country drags India to the WTO.


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