India resists rich nations’ attempt to ‘divide’ developing nations, LDCs


India is resisting attempts by developed nations to “draw a wedge” between developing countries and LDCs in the on-going negotiations for subsidising public stock holding programmes at the WTO, under the garb of offering an early resolution, and has asked poorer nations not to fall into the trap.

“At the WTO agriculture committee on Monday, some developed nations, such as Canada and the EU, stated that a full-fledged solution to public stock holding for developing nations wouldn’t be possible at the forthcoming Ministerial Conference.

Instead, they suggested that the expanded provisions may be offered to just the LDCs. India opposed the attempted ‘driving of wedge’ and asked poorer countries to be careful as it could dilute the solution being demanded,” a Geneva-based official told BusinessLine.

‘For food security’

The G33 group of developing nations, which includes India, has been seeking a permanent solution for rules on public stock holding that will allow developing nations and LDCs to give subsidies for such programmes, including minimum support prices for farm produce, without any limitations, as it is essential for supporting the countries’ poor and for ensuring food security.

Under the Agreement on Agriculture, developing countries and LDCs have to limit subsidies for public stock holding to 10 per cent of production value, beyond which they could be penalised. At the Bali Ministerial Conference in 2013, India managed to get a `peace clause’ as part of an interim solution which allows immunity against action on breach of the ceiling limit, but it is only limited to traditional staples and excludes new programmes.

The G33, in its submission in September 2021, demanded that the permanent solution should include all crops and all new programmes with no upper limit on total procurement (the Chair’s text proposes a tentative upper limit of 15 per cent). It also wants less onerous notification obligations.

‘Revised draft’

The Chair of the Agriculture Committee is likely to introduce a revised draft text on agriculture based on the negotiations this week. The final draft will be taken up at the WTO MC12 on November 30-December 3, to reach an agreement.

“Those members against expanding the PSH to cover new products and new programmes said that it did not seem necessary as only 10 members notified the use of public stock holding in the past 20 years. Some countries, like the US, proposed that only a work programme on public stock holding focussing on technical work should be agreed to at MC12,” the source said.

India spoke strongly against all suggestions on postponing a resolution and Canada and the EU’s proposal of expanding provisions for LDCs. “Giving in to temptation and agreeing to a resolution only for LDCs, could be counter-productive. The fight is also for less stringent notification norms and safeguard clauses without which LDCs will not be in a position to utilise the expanded public stock holding,” a Delhi-based trade expert said.

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