India should not betray farmers at WTO: ActionAid | india | Hindustan Times
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India should not betray farmers at WTO: ActionAid

Int'l NGO ActionAid has condemned 'the strong pressure from international forces' on India 'to accept a bad deal' appreciating the strong stand taken by it at the WTO talks to protect farmers.

india Updated: Jul 28, 2008 11:13 IST

International NGO ActionAid has appreciated the strong stand taken by India at the WTO talks in Geneva to protect farmers in developing countries, and has condemned "the strong pressure from international forces" on India "to accept a bad deal".

WTO chief Pascal Lamy made a last-minute proposal to save the WTO Doha round of talks on Friday. The proposal does not "protect the lives and livelihoods of poor farmers", said an ActionAid spokesperson over e-mail on Monday.

Commerce Minister Kamal Nath had taken a strong stance on behalf of India at the talks on Thursday, particularly on agriculture, saying he was ready to negotiate commerce but not the livelihoods of poor farmers.

Following this, US President George W Bush reportedly phoned Prime Minister Manmohan Singh thrice on Friday, while a number of delegates from industrialised countries dubbed India a "deal breaker". Lamy said if negotiators were not ready for compromise they would face "serious consequences".

Actionaid's International Director John Samuel said: "It is high time India stood up for farmers. If the government succumbs to the pressure from the United States and other G8 countries, they will be betraying millions of poor farmers in the world."

Going by Lamy's proposal, developing countries would have to cut their agriculture tariff by 36 per cent and even the most important products for poor farmers would face around 19 per cent cuts, ActionAid said, adding that the proposal would not imply real cuts in huge farm subsidies in the US and EU.

"Both these countries pretend to make 70 per cent and 80 per cent cuts in subsidies whereas, in reality, there are no real cuts. The current US subsidy is around $7 billion while 70 per cent cut would cap its subsidies to $14.5 billion. Similarly according to estimates EU subsides by 2014 would be around 12 billion euros while the 80 per cent cut would cap its subsidies to 22 billion euros. Hence, there is no real cut in subsidies."

Aftab Alam Khan, head of ActionAid Trade Policy, said: "The rich countries and Lamy have proved that they are only concerned with huge transnational businesses which want to grab more and more market opportunities at the cost of millions of poor farmers and workers."

India is home to around 400 million poor farmers. Over 150,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide between 1997 and 2005, according to an ActionAid estimate.