India not being blamed for collapse of WTO talks: Prabhu

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Buenos Aires: It is the first time that India is not being blamed for the collapse of talks at the just concluded 11th World Trade Organisation (WTO) ministerial conference here, Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu has said.

The talks at the 11th ministerial conference (MC11) broke down earlier this week as the United States reneged on its commitment, along with other countries, to find a permanent solution to the issue of public food stockholding by members of the multilateral trade body.

“We came here with an open mind. This is the first time that India is not being blamed… we are definitely not going back as villains,” Prabhu told reporters here on Saturday.

“We knew that nothing was going to happen because of the way the US administration was moving and questioning the efficiency of the global trading system,” he said.

The Minister said that India was keen for a permanent solution to the food stockpiling issue, which ought to have been better than the existing “Peace Clause” compromise agreed upon earlier at the WTO till a permanent solution was found.

The WTO talks here collapsed after Assistant US Trade Representative Sharon Bomer Lauritsen declared in a small group meeting that a permanent solution to the food stockholding issue was not acceptable to America.

Prabhu said that he had held over two dozen bilateral meetings here during which he explained India’s position, as well as of the developing countries, on various issues.

Under the WTO norms, a member-country’s food subsidy bill should not breach the limit of 10 per cent of the value of production based on the reference price of 1986-88.

India has been seeking amendments to this formula, fearing that full implementation of its food security programme may result in breaching of the WTO subsidy limit.

The 2013 WTO ministerial meeting in Bali in Indonesia had decided to put in place the Peace Clause as an interim measure, and had agreed to negotiate a permanent solution at the 11th ministerial conference in Buenos Aires in Argentina.

Prabhu said that India continued to press for the reduction of farm subsidies by developed countries and resisted inclusion of new issues on the negotiating table in case these dilute the commitment to complete the existing agenda.

In an official statement in New Delhi earlier this week, India blamed a “major country” for derailing the process to find a permanent solution to the food security issue.

“In the agriculture negotiations in Buenos Aires, a major country stated categorically that they cannot agree to any permanent solution on the public stockholding issue at MC11,” a Commerce Ministry release said.

“This has posed a severe threat to a successful conclusion of the conference as there was a ministerial mandate for a permanent solution by MC11. India is surprised and deeply disappointed that despite an overwhelming majority of members reiterating it, a major member-country reneged on a commitment made two years ago to deliver a solution of critical importance for addressing hunger in some of the poorest countries of the world.

“This has the potential to irreversibly damage the credibility of the WTO as a ministerial decision of all countries present in Nairobi has not been honoured,” the Indian Ministry added.

For first time, India not being blamed for collapse of WTO talks: Suresh Prabhu

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