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Move to push back trade pact deadline

New Delhi, July 21: India will try to defer WTO’s trade facilitation agreement to December 31, 2014, from the July 31 deadline fixed in Bali last year.

New Delhi has worked out a hard bargaining strategy for a permanent solution on food subsidies at the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) two-day general council meeting beginning Thursday.

The BJP-led government at the Centre will stand by its demand that food security has to be guaranteed by the WTO signatory nations before the trade facilitation deal is cleared.

“We cannot agree to the trade facilitation agreement (TFA) being pushed by the developed nations at the WTO within the prescribed deadline. Food security has always been India’s main concern and we are not going to concede,” a senior commerce ministry official said.

TFA seeks to streamline trade procedures, making it easier for goods to cross international borders, with substantial reduction in red tape and bureaucracy. It has the potential to induce $1 trillion into the global economy.

“Till we have an assurance and visible outcomes which convince developing countries that the members will engage in negotiations with commitment to find a permanent solution on public stock holding and all other Bali deliverables, especially those for the least developing countries (LDCs), India will find it difficult to join the consensus on the Protocol of Amendment,” the ministry has stated.

Three issues

Apart from trade facilitation, the Bali package had two issues: agriculture and the needs of the LDCs. While the three issues were supposed to be taken forward equally while reaching an agreement, the talks have focused almost solely on facilitation.

Since last year’s Bali declaration, there have been 20 meetings on facilitation and just two on agriculture, officials said.

New Delhi fears developed countries led by the US will harvest the facilitation agreement while rendering any permanent solution on India’s food subsidy and procurement programme out of reach.

Under current WTO rules, India could face sanctions if it goes ahead with its huge food security programme as the subsidy involved could breach the limits set by the world trade body.

 
 
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