India on Monday said it has not yielded on the food security issue in the WTO Bali ministerial and, in fact, secured some concessions on the trade facilitation agreement (TFA).
The Bali draft says that till a permanent solution is reached (on the question of issues of asymmetry in the Agreement on Agriculture), members would refrain from approaching the dispute-settlement body against breach of the 10% cap on price-support based food subsidy.
Officials said India has also been able to extract a transition period for implementation of certain trade facilitation provisions. "As far as trade facilitation is concerned, we have got 80% of what we wanted," said Rajeev Kher, special secretary, department of commerce.
According to the Bali ministerial declaration, there are three categories of provisions with regard to the TFA. Category A contains provisions that a developing country designates for implementation before July 31, 2014. Category B contains provisions that a developing country designates for implementation on a date after a transitional period of time, following the entry into force of the agreement while Category C contains provisions that a developing country designates for implementation on a date after a transitional period of time and requires technical assistance. “This categorisation will be done by us and developed countries can raise objection in the B and C categories. Most of the trade facilitation is implemented in India,” said Kher.
As per the trade facilitation pact, India and developing countries had agreed to improve infrastructure at ports, put in place systems to facilitate faster custom clearances and invest in automation, computerisation and homogenous documentation to facilitate faster movement of goods.
The deal allows nations such as India to fix a minimum support price (MSP) for farm produce and to sell staple grains to the poor at subsidised rates. It also permits countries to store foodgrains to meet contingency requirements.
“Information sharing is not an issue as almost 90% of the information we have to furnish is available on the food ministry's website. We do not want the interim mechanism to go on and on. In rice, we may have to notify the WTO that we are nearing the 10% level (in respect of subsidies based on price-support) in some years,” added SR Rao, commerce secretary.
According to the proposal, all schemes providing support in relation to procurement for public stock-holding programmes for staple food crops will be protected from WTO litigation. Developed countries such as