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Keeping the WTO process alive is important. But the same can't be said for the distorting farm subsidies
Given that India has stakes in the success of multilateralism, the lack of an agreement at the Bali summit would have been a disaster. It has to be said, then, that India's hardball tactics worked. Bali did not fail while India largely got what it was fighting for — the right to hike its food subsidies till such time that various distortions in the global subsidy agreement aren't fixed. For instance, subsidy calculations are based on 1986-88 prices while global wheat prices have more than doubled since. While developed countries were willing to offer a ceasefire for four years, India managed to extend this till the time an agreement is reached. During this period, no country can take India to the WTO's dispute settlement board (DSB) arguing that its food subsidies are excessive.
But caveats need to be added, and a larger examination must be made to ascertain whether Indian agriculture will benefit from this in the long run. First, the caveat. No country can take India to the DSB as long as its food subsidies, under the Food Security Act, for instance, do not distort global trade. But in a situation where the Food Corporation of India has excessive foodgrain stocks and these are liquidated at prices lower than what it costs the FCI, this can be construed as trade-distorting and can invite action by the WTO.