|Azevedo with Sharma in New Delhi on Monday. Picture by Ramakant Kushwaha
New Delhi, Oct. 7: India’s ambitious cheap grain programme is likely to result in serious differences with the World Trade Organisation as the subsidy to the scheme is seen to breach the global trade body’s rules.
New WTO chief Roberto Azevedo today said the programme was an issue of concern and needed to be addressed in a positive manner.
“There is appreciation for the legitimacy of food security concerns in India and other developing countries. Work is going on intensely to find a solution, which will probably include a peace clause, and a conversation for a long-term solution will happen meaningfully after Bali,” said Azevedo, who took over as the WTO director-general from Pascal Lamy in September.
At the moment, developed countries are willing to offer only a “peace clause” that will allow developing countries such as India legal protection for a two-three year period against members breaching the food subsidy limits.
India is also keen to win legitimacy for its ambitious food security law that promises highly subsidised foodgrain to the poor from the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and is open to the issue being discussed at the Bali meeting in December.
The ninth WTO ministerial conference will be held in Bali from December 3-6.
Although India had been demanding a change in the WTO agreement on agriculture to remove limits on public stockholding and food aid, it is now keen on a compromise solution.
The agreement allows “market distorting subsidies” up to a limit of 10 per cent of the total production. India is apprehensive that once its food security legislation is fully implemented, its food subsidies will breach the 10 per cent mark.
Terming it as a very complex issue, Azevedo said: “I doubt immensely that we are going to have a finalised solution on all aspects of this issue in four weeks. It is just impossible.”
“There is no uniformity (on the food security law). When you have so many aspirations and different levels of development, you cannot have a country specific solution. You have to find a middle ground which is acceptable to all,” commerce minister Anand Sharma said.