The July 31 deadline for the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) at the World Trade Organisation is not inviolable, India said in an amended statement for the world bodys general council late on Thursday, despite tenuous support for its case for bundling the TFA with the food security issue.
While visiting US leaders secretary of state John Kerry and commerce secretary Penny Pritzker who had meetings with senior Indian ministers during the day hoped for a last-minute breakthrough, official sources said New Delhis stance is unchanged but added that the countrys latest statement to the council suggested a way to end the deadlock.
Stressing that substance rather than process was paramount, New Delhi said a permanent solution to the issue of public stockholding for food security was integral to the Bali ministerial deal, sources said, quoting the countrys revised statement.
Our new proposal is like a solution to the stalemate. If they accept it, the deal can be signed even today. But if they (developed countries) believe the deadline is more important, they should agree now to what we are saying or move to a new deadline and then accept our proposal, a senior government official said.
Kerry said after a meeting with external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj: There is a meeting going on in Geneva. Our feeling is that the agreement in Bali was important for India. We do not dismiss Indias concerns on food subsidy. We are trying to encourage India to reach a compromise.
Swaraj, however, maintained: Let us wait for the final outcome of the (Geneva) meeting.
Separately, commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman said Indias stand was the same (as earlier) and New Delhi remained firm. Commerce secretary Rajeev Kher, who was present at Sitharamans meeting with Pritzker, said India has suggested a way to break the deadlock.
The permanent solution, as India envisages, would give developing countries more liberty to subsidise its farmers including by giving them a minimum support price for their produce. As for India, relaxation of the cap for stockholding of foodgrains would help it implement the National Food Security Act, which envisages providing highly subsidised food to two-thirds of its people.
As per the December 2013 Bali Ministerial declaration, the deadline for member countries to sign a TF protocol would end on Thursday. Hectic parleys are on at the WTOs Geneva headquarters to arrive at a deal. The TFA, however, will take