In­dia to Ex­pe­dite WTO Talks on Food, Ser­vices

The Economic Times - - Economy: Macro, Micro & More - Our Bureau

New Delhi: In­dia will send an ex­pert team to Geneva in March to ex­pe­dite ne­go­ti­a­tions on food se­cu­rity and a global agree­ment on ser­vices at the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WTO) be­fore its min­is­te­rial meet­ing in Ar­gentina in De­cem­ber.

In­dia is un­will­ing to bend or yield on WTO’s de­mand for a dis­cus­sion on food se­cu­rity, com­merce and in­dus­try min­is­ter Nir­mala Sithara­man said af­ter meet­ing WTO di­rec­tor gen­eral Roberto Azevedo on Thurs­day. “We will send a team to Geneva to talk on de­tails…We will not start from zero,” the min­is­ter said, re­fer­ring to the G-33 pro­posal that seeks to amend WTO rules on agri­cul­ture.

The pro­posal sug­gests food pro­cure­ment from farm­ers to feed the poor un­der a sub­sidy fixed at10%, and also uses an old method­ol­ogy for sub­sidy cal­cu­la­tion that does not ac­count for in­fla­tion and is based on a price in­dex of 1986-88.

Ear­lier in the day, Azevedo said con­ver­gence on food se­cu­rity can­not be reached with­out a re­vi­sion in the pro­posal.

The team from In­dia will also help pre­pare the coun­try for the cru­cial min­is­te­rial in Ar­gentina so that enough dis­cus­sions hap­pen be­fore any agenda is de­cided upon by the mem­bers.

In­dia doesn’t want a sit­u­a­tion where there is no progress on the is­sues it finds im­por­tant be­fore the min­is­te­rial.

Azevedo had called the Nairobi min­is­te­rial a “dis­as­ter” where coun­tries “felt com­fort­able in not hav­ing a de­ci­sion.”

In Nairobi, de­vel­oped coun­tries were suc­cess­ful in clinch­ing the deal away from In­dia by al­low­ing new is­sues to be taken up in the WTO’s man­date. De­vel­oped coun­tries, in­clud­ing the US, have been push­ing for co­op­er­a­tion, in­for­ma­tion ex­change and ca­pac­ity build­ing for small and medium en­ter­prises and fish­eries also. Sithara­man said e-com­merce was not on the agenda for In­dia be­cause there was not much un­der­stand­ing on the is­sue. “It’s not proper for us to de­fine and reg­u­late it,” she said.

At present, there are 11 pa­pers on e-com­merce in WTO which are at early stages but Azevedo said he was not op­ti­mistic of solv­ing is­sues like data lo­cal­i­sa­tion and data flows at the min­is­te­rial.

“No one has talked of market ac­cess or ecom­merce market ac­cess for goods. There’s very ba­sic con­ver­sa­tion on con­sumer pro­tec­tion, har­mon­i­sa­tion and e-sig­na­tures,” he said. He met tech and e-com­merce com­pa­nies on Wed­nes­day at an event or­gan­ised by In­ter­na­tional Cham­ber of Com­merce. He said that though there was in­ter­est in the is­sue, no con­sen­sus had been reached on how to move for­ward. WTO chief Azevedo mean­while lauded In­dia’s de­mon­eti­sa­tion drive and said re­forms, in­clud­ing those on tax­a­tion and ease of do­ing busi­ness, will en­sure In­dia’s growth and for­eign investment as they are be­ing recog­nised all over the world.

“In­dia is car­ry­ing out a wide range of re­forms to im­prove and strengthen in­sti­tu­tions,” he said.

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