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WTO talks set to collapse as US refuses to engage on food security issue

India has been maintaining that permanent solution to food stockpile issue was a “must have” at the ongoing ministerial.

world Updated: Dec 12, 2017 22:57 IST
D Ravi Kanth and Asit Ranjan Mishra
D Ravi Kanth and Asit Ranjan Mishra
LiveMint, Buenos Aires
WTO,WTO talks,World Trade Organisation
A view of the plenary meeting of the 11th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on December 11, 2017. (AFP Photo)

The 11th ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organisation in Buenos Aires hung in the balance on Tuesday after the US refused to budge on relaxations demanded by developing countries to provide for their food security programmes.

The matter went into deadlock after India and China, stuck to their stance.

A person who was part of the deliberations but did not wish to be identified quoted a US trade official as saying that Washington cannot agree to any permanent solution on public stockholding programmes for food security at Buenos Aires.

To be sure there is still a day to go for the ministerial talks. If either side blinks, a breakthrough may emerge. At the time of going to print, the talks were deadlocked.

India and other devloping countries argue that a permanent solution is needed because a four-year truce struck at the Bali WTO ministerial in 2013 -- the “peace clause” -- comes to an end in a few weeks. The meeting at Buenos Aires was supposed to evolve a solution, failing which policies pursued by India -- like public procurement for food security and providing minimum support prices to farmers -- could come under WTO scrutiny.

On Monday, trade minister Suresh Prabhu had made India’s position clear that any outcome at Buenos Aires is presaged on a permanent solution to the issue of public stockholding for food security.

At a meeting of trade ministers from the US, European Union, China, India, Brazil, and Australia on Tuesday morning, the US rejected any improvements proposed in the existing peace clause at Buenos Aires.

The official overseeing the outcomes on the permanent solution for public stockholding programs for food security and other issues in agriculture, Amina Mohamed, Kenya’s cabinet secretary for foreign affairs, held the meeting with the six countries.

Earlier, she issued a draft agreement on the permanent solution, but only with modest changes.

India and China, who have been demanding a credible outcome on permanent solution, expressed disappointment for its failure to address the improvements they had sought in the transparency and safeguard provisions.

Mohamed was expected to issue the draft text later on Tuesday to indicate a possible way out on the permanent solution.

First Published: Dec 12, 2017 21:47 IST