WTO: Sitharaman Says No Change in India's Stand

New Delhi
WTO: Sitharaman Says No Change in India's Stand

India today stuck to its stand on food security issues taken at WTO notwithstanding the pressure by the US, which engaged in hectic parleys on the subject with Indian leaders, hoping for a "compromise".

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker have held series of meetings with Indian leaders including Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to persuade New Delhi to agree to dilute its tough stand on WTO's Bali package.

After the fifth Indo-US Strategic Dialogue, while External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said she would wait for the outcome of the consultations at Geneva, Kerry hoped that a compromise would be reached with regard to ongoing hectic deliberations.

Earlier, Sitharaman had told reporters after her meeting with the visiting US leaders that "Our stand remains the same".

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) members have to adopt the protocol on the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) tonight.

Kerry said, "Our feeling is obviously that the agreement that was reached in Bali was an agreement that imporantly can provide for food security for India. We do not dismiss the concerns India has about large numbers of poor people who require some sort of food assurances, assistance.

"We believe there is a way to provide for that that keeps faith with the WTO Bali agreement. So we are obviously encouraging our friends in India to try to find a path here, a compromise both need. We think that is achievable and we hope it is achievable".

India has been maintaining that it would not adopt the protocol on the TFA until a permanent solution is found on the public stock holding for food security purposes.

An official on the condition of anonymity said that India has suggested a way of action to break the impasse and it is for the developed world to respond.

The new formula "was on the broad contours of" India's stand, the source said adding the Bali deal need not collapse even if the July 31 deadline is not met.

WTO has already missed as many as 27 deadlines on various issues. For adoption of the TFA, which aims at simplifying customs procedure and promote global trade, the consent of all 160-WTO members is necessary.

Hectic consultations are going on in Geneva to resolve issues between developed countries and emerging economies. WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo is meeting officials in Geneva to end the impasse on issues related with TFA and public stock-holding for food security purposes.

New Delhi is pressing for an amendment to WTO norms regarding stockpile of food grains, an issue critical to India's food security programme.

The current WTO norms limit the value of food subsidies at 10 per cent of the total value of food grain production. However, the support is calculated at the prices that are over two-decade old.

India is asking for a change in the base year (1986-88) for calculating the food subsidies. India wants a change taking into account inflation and currency fluctuation.

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