| Singh: Mobilising forces
New Delhi, Oct. 24: Union agriculture minister Ajit Singh today appealed for a broad political consensus on farm sector issues so that India could present a cogent and cohesive argument to protect its interests at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) discussions on agriculture-related issues.
Calling for an all-party meeting on October 29, he said, “There is no tax on the farmers at the moment; even under the WTO regime their interests will be protected. We need a level playing field to protect the interest of the farmers who do not have great technologies but can compete with any country given the right atmosphere.”
Singh demanded a better WTO agreement on agriculture which would have to be completed before January 1, 2005.
The minister, who was addressing a meeting of agriculture ministers from the states and union secretaries to work out a strategy for re-negotiation of the WTO agreement on agriculture, said, “The state governments will be fully consulted on the issue.”
“The three most important factors that India will have to fight are internal subsidies given by developed countries, external tariffs on imports and influencing global trade prices. There has to be a political will to ensure our negotiators go about their job smoothly,” Singh added.
Singh said export subsidies in other countries are hindering India’s international trade. India’s problem is not due to its subsidies which are lower than that stipulated but that of funds. “However, the WTO advantages should not be denied due to resource problems; rather subsidies in other countries should come down.”
Due to various interests in agriculture, including the food security demand, India has common demands with most of the lobbies in WTO negotiations. However Singh said that the sharing of common interests does not bracket India with a particular group. “India will have to fight independently while balancing between various groups. New Delhi will have to represent the developing countries even though some African and other nations do not largely depend on agriculture.”
Developed countries like the US and Europe are giving millions of dollars as export subsidies leading to a drop in the international prices of agricultural products during the last few years.