India will never compromise on food security: Anand Sharma

New Delhi, Dec 17 : After having successfully reached through consensus a trade agreement at the WTO meet, held in Indonesia, India will never compromise on the fundamental issues pertaining to food security, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said Tuesday.

"We have been able to give a clear signal to the world that while India is prepared to engage, it will not accept an un-balanced agreement," Sharma, who headed the Indian delegation at the WTO conference, told parliament.

"It will under no circumstances compromise the fundamental issues pertaining to food security, livelihood security and the welfare of its subsistence farmers and poor."

Sharma said the agreement re-affirmed India's leadership role amongst the developing countries, as it demonstrated diplomatic ability to build consensus.

According to Sharma, India was key to arriving at a breakthrough and shaping the first agreement since the creation of the WTO 18 years ago, known as the "Bali Package".

The 'Bali Package' seeks to liberalise international trade norms and allow developing countries like India to continue offering subsidies for their food procurement programme.

"We were able to build a broader coalition of support forcing US and EU to cede ground. India declined a country-specific carve out and insisted that protection must be available to all developing countries," Sharma said.

The recent draft agreement is a significant victory for India whose programme of stocking subsidized food grain to ensure cheaper food for its people was considered to have blocked the progress of negotiations.

Sharma in Indonesia had reaffirmed India's stance calling food security "a fundamental issue", and added that "India will never compromise".

Trading partners say the food security programme contravenes WTO rules, which limit farm subsidies, and there are concerns that India could use the policy to export food at cheaper prices, thus distorting the market.

The new agreement would allow developing countries farm subsidies for food security of their people, improve terms of trade to the Least Developed Countries, and cut customs rules around the world.

The latest draft texts are the product of weeks of intensive negotiations held in Geneva before the Ministerial Meeting. They were further refined after round-the-clock consultations at the conference.

Officials said WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo, Indonesian Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan, US Trade Representative Michael Froman, and Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma held various parleys before the agreement was drafted.

--IANS (Posted on 17-12-2013)

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