The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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The commitment by the developed countries to eliminate distortions in world agriculture caused by their policies holds the key to resolving differences amongst us in this area. The Global Economic Prospects 2004, a World Bank publication, mentions that the protection in the developed countries faced by developing country exporters in agriculture is four to seven times higher than in manufactures. The effect is to stimulate over-production in high cost rich countries and to shut out potentially more competitive products from developing countries. It is no surprise that over the past few years, agricultural exports from developing countries to developed countries grew at just half the rate they did to other developing countries...

In many developed countries, the average income of farmers is higher than the national average, reaching almost 200 per cent of the average in certain cases. Let us also remind ourselves that the agriculture subsidies provided by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries are more than six times what they spend on official development assistance for developing countries. OECD governments support sugar producers at the rate of US $6.4 billion annually — an amount nearly equal to all developing country exports. Subsidies to cotton growers in a developed country totalled US $3.7 billion last year, which is three times that country’s foreign aid to Africa. The net effect of subsidizing agriculture in developed countries at the expense of products of the relatively poor in developing countries is to aggravate global income inequalities.

On the other hand, against equity, justice and fair play, developing countries are being asked to liberalize their agriculture. What the farmers in developing countries demand is protection from distortions in the trade of agricultural commodities, created through the high level of subsidies in the developed countries.

The plight of these farmers is directly linked with the level and kind of subsidies in the farming sector in the developed world. Hence, it would be difficult for us to agree to negotiations, which could potentially place at high risk the very livelihood of 650 million people in India, who are solely dependent on agriculture. It is only when the developed countries agree to take five steps forward in the removal of trade-distorting subsidies that the developing countries can take one step forward in the area of market access. The legitimate concerns of billions of farmers in developing countries, for whom agriculture means survival and not commercial operation, cannot be sacrificed to sub-serve agri-business profits of a few millions elsewhere...

In order to secure sufficient gains from globalization for developing countries there is an urgent need to bring down the high tariffs and non-tariff barriers on products of export interest to developing countries. Also to effectively take account of their development needs, including rural development and food security and livelihood concerns, it remains our duty to ensure that special and differential treatment for developing countries and policy space to deal with sensitive products remain an integral part of all elements of negotiations.

India reiterates that under no circumstances can it accept any form or harmonization of tariffs in agriculture or obligations to create and expand tariff rate quotas. India along with 20 other members has put forward joint proposals on agriculture that we believe offer a constructive and meaningful alternative...

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