India convinces WTO of food security issues: Sitharaman

India convinces WTO of food security issues: Sitharaman

India succeeded in convincing WTO of its food security concerns as it negotiated from a position of “unassailable strength”, Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Friday.

Sitharaman’s statement in Parliament came a day after the WTO approved a framework for implementation of a global pact for easing customs norms after acceding to India’s demand to remove constraints on food stockpiling.

Besides accepting its concerns on public stockholding, the deal by the 160-member WTO allows India to continue with its policy to provide minimum support price to farmers, she said.

“We have accomplished this without any concessions, compromise or new conditions,” Sitharaman said, adding that the deal vindicates the principled stand India had taken on food security. Some opposition members raised objections contending that the minister was trying to give a political tone to her statement and get mileage out of it.

The WTO General Council, at its meeting in Geneva on Thursday, had accepted India’s demand for extending the peace clause till a permanent solution is found for its food stockpiling issue. The peace clause prevents any WTO member-nation from challenging public stockholding of food grains by developing countries for food security purposes.

As per the agreement reached at the Bali Ministerial Meeting in December last year, the peace clause was to continue only till 2017. “The WTO decision strengthens the safeguard available for continuing the Minimum Support Price policy which is a lifeline for millions of our low-income, resource-poor farmers,” Sitharaman said. The decision at the WTO also calls for members to work hard for a permanent solution by December 31 next year, introducing a sense of urgency in the process.

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