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Cabinet approves India's stand at WTO

The cabinet Thursday approved the stand taken by India at the ninth ministerial conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) held in Bali in Indonesia Dec 3-7.

"Prior to the Bali ministerial conference, the cabinet had provided directions to the commerce and industry minister on the stand to be taken by India. Acting on these directions, India took the position from the beginning that food security was non-negotiable," the cabinet said in a statement.

"As a result of its unwavering stand and the support it was able to muster, India succeeded in getting the text on food security appropriately amended. The final agreed text addresses India's core concerns. It has a firm commitment from members to work on a permanent resolution".

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

Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma reaffirmed India's stance in Indonesia, 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 the food security of their people, improve terms of trade for 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.

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