Indian farmers, civil society laud Sharma's stand at WTO

New Delhi, Dec 6 : Indian farmers and civil society Friday welcomed Commerce Minister Anand Sharma's "bold and principled statements" on food security and fully endorsed his view that it is non-negotiable.

The group of Indian farmers and civil society, including Action Aid - India, Bhartiya Kisan Union, and Bhartiya Krishak Samaj, said they appreciated his stand at the World Trade Organisation Ministerial Meeting in Indonesia's Bali that "the Peace Clause, as it currently stands on the table, is unacceptable in order to effectively guarantee food security for our people".

The Peace Clause is whereby the US and other nations would not file claims against poor countries like India for the measures to protect farmers and consumers from food price volatility for three to four years.

They said they were aware "that tremendous pressure is being put on you to accept conditionalities for a solution".

They said the clause "can only be accepted if it comes without onerous and nullifying conditions, covers Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures and the 1994 GATT Agreement. We urge you to accept nothing less".

"This is essential to protect our food programmes in the long run as the government cannot afford to roll back its MSP programme after four years. We appreciate that in spite of severe opposition from the US and the EU, India has strongly held on to its position."

They said: "We stand together with you in your efforts to secure an agriculture package in favour of the Indian people and the developing world. As you said today, India did not come to the WTO with a begging bowl - food security for their citizens is an obligation and a right of all countries that supersedes trade rules."

"India's small-scale producers meet the food needs of our 1.2 billion people. We have an obligation to protect their livelihoods and ensure that they can continue to produce food for themselves and their country," they said.

The other signatories to the letter include All India Coordination Committee of Farmers' Movements (AICCFM), Focus on the Global South - India, Great Mission Group Consultancy - India, Karnataka Rajya Ryots Sangh (KRRS), Right to Food Campaign, Shram Seva Nyas - Pune, South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers' Movements, Swadeshi Jagran Manch, and Third World Network - India.

--IANS (Posted on 06-12-2013)

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