WTO Min­is­te­rial: Prabhu has a bat­tle on his hands

In­dia to fight for a per­ma­nent so­lu­tion on food se­cu­rity; not to make more com­mit­ments on e-com­merce

The Hindu Business Line - - NEWS - AMITI SEN

Com­merce & In­dus­try Min­is­ter Suresh Prabhu, who has left for Buenos Aires for the Eleventh Min­is­te­rial Con­fer­ence (MC 11) of the World Trade Or­gan­i­sa­tion be­gin­ning on Sun­day, is ready­ing to fight a diplo­matic bat­tle to pro­tect farm­ers, traders and the in­dus­try.

In­dia, which is pri­mar­ily fo­cussed on a sat­is­fac­tory per­ma­nent so­lu­tion on pub­lic stock hold­ing sub­si­dies at the Min­is­te­rial, has de­cided to take the bull by the horn by or­gan­is­ing a del­e­gates brief­ing on food se­cu­rity at Buenos Aires to garner pop­u­lar sup­port.

“The ob­jec­tive be­hind the brief­ing is to draw at­ten­tion to the un­fair­ness of ex­ist­ing rules on agri­cul­ture that put a limit on the sup­port devel­op­ing coun­tries can ex­tend to its farm­ers through min­i­mum sup­port prices. We want to mo­bilise pub­lic opin­ion in favour of re­mov­ing such lim­its,” a gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial told Busi­nessLine.

The meet­ing, sched­uled on Mon­day, will be ad­dressed by Prabhu and pos­si­bly rep­re­sen­ta­tives from other Asian and African coun­tries.

Deb­o­rah James from Our World is Not for Sale, a civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tion fight­ing for rights for the poor, will also give a pre­sen­ta­tion.

“A per­ma­nent so­lu­tion to the prob­lem of pub­lic stock hold­ing (which goes be­yond the peace clause al­ready ne­go­ti­ated) Com­merce Min­is­ter Suresh Prabhu is a mat­ter of sheer sur­vival and liveli­hood for hun­dreds of mil­lions of peo­ple in the world, par­tic­u­larly Asia and Africa. WTO has to re­spond cred­i­bly to this is­sue,” said Ab­hi­jit Das, Head, Cen­tre for WTO Stud­ies.

Po­lit­i­cal im­pli­ca­tions

With ma­jor States go­ing to polls and the rul­ing BJP al­ready gear­ing up for the next Lok Sabha elec­tions sched­uled in 2019, the Cen­tre also is keen to project that no de­ci­sions will be taken on the trade front that WTO D-G Roberto Azevedo go against the in­ter­ests of farm­ers and traders — two ma­jor vote banks for the party.

“Any wrong step at the WTO, which could be pro­jected by the Op­po­si­tion as go­ing against the in­ter­ests of poor farm­ers and traders, could be sui­ci­dal for the rul­ing party. In­dia, there­fore, will be ex­tremely care­ful in Buenos Aires and try not to come un­der pres­sure from de­vel­oped coun­tries in areas such as e-com­merce and do­mes­tic farm sub­si­dies and fish­eries sub­si­dies,” the of­fi­cial said.

No to e-comm

In­dia, there­fore, has al­ready said no to tak­ing on ad­di­tional com­mit­ments in e-com­merce in­clud­ing start­ing prepa­ra­tions for ne­go­ti­a­tions on rules.

“In­dia’s trad­ing com­mu­nity, which is un­der stress due to com­pe­ti­tion from e-com­merce com­pa­nies, would be un­for­giv­ing if the coun­try agrees to ne­go­ti­ate rules at the mul­ti­lat­eral fo­rum to make the go­ing eas­ier for for­eign com­pa­nies,” the of­fi­cial said.

Sim­i­larly, New Delhi has said that it is not yet ready to com­mit to par­ing fish­eries sub­si­dies as a large num­ber of ar­ti­sanal farm­ers are de­pen­dent on such sub­si­dies and the coun­try has to move with care.

The MC 11 will kick off on Sun­day evening with the Chair­per­son propos­ing the adop­tion of the Agenda and the Chair­man of the Gen­eral Coun­cil mak­ing a state­ment.

“Any wrong step at the WTO, which could be pro­jected by the Op­po­si­tion as go­ing against the in­ter­ests of poor farm­ers and traders, could be sui­ci­dal for the BJP.”

Pres­i­dent of Ar­gentina Mauri­cio Macri and the Di­rec­tor-Gen­eral of WTO Roberto Azevedo will also give their state­ments in the open­ing ses­sion.

The ple­nary ses­sion will start on De­cem­ber 11 where Trade Min­is­ters from all 164 mem­ber coun­tries will get the chance to project their views.

The clos­ing ses­sion is sched­uled on De­cem­ber 13 evening be­fore which mem­ber coun­tries are ex­pected to agree on pacts in areas iden­ti­fied in the agenda which would be re­flected in the Min­is­te­rial Dec­la­ra­tion.

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