Food security is non-negotiable: Sharma

Bali, Dec 4 : Taking a resolute stand in defence of farmers and the poor at the 9th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Bali on Wednesday, Union Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said that interests of millions of subsistence farmers, and food security is essential for over 4 billion people world wide.

Therefore, "a trade agreement must be in harmony with our shared commitments of eliminating hunger and ensuring the right to food. These are an integral part of the global Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)," Sharma said in a statement at the Plenary Session of the Conference.

In one of the most awaited statements at the WTO plenary, he reiterated that for India, food security is non-negotiable.

Need for public stockholding of foodgrains to ensure food security must be respected, and to this end, WTO rules must be updated, he said.

Stating that the G-33 proposal was mooted precisely for this purpose, Sharma made it clear that: "The due restraint provision, in its current form, cannot be accepted. It must remain in force till we are able to agree on a lasting solution and provide adequate protection from all kinds of challenges."

Stressing that members have a shared responsibility in preserving the credibility of the WTO as a trade negotiating forum, and that India has remained constructively engaged in the negotiations, he expressed disappointment at the agricultural package, mere statements of intent for Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and several unresolved issues in the trade facilitation agreement.

"Bali package must be substantive" and historical imbalances in trade rules must be corrected in order to ensure a fair and equitable order", he said.

He also said that in view of inherent imbalances, "we consider it premature to lend support to an inconclusive trade facilitation agreement."

Reiterating the need to re-energise the Doha Development Agenda (DDA), he stated: "We must agree on a firm post-Bali work programme to conclude the DDA. Let Bali be remembered for bringing development back into focus."

--IBNS (Posted on 04-12-2013)

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