Food security issue is non-negotiable: Anand Sharma to World Trade Organisation members

Commerce Minister Anand SharmaCommerce Minister Anand SharmaCommerce Minister Anand Sharma (AP)

In an unusually aggressive mood, India on Wednesday informed the World Trade Organization that its stand on food security is non-negotiable. Even as others including the United States, China and the European Union called it a "now or never" moment for the WTO and sought to arrive at a consensus on the Bali package, India also indicated it is not agreeable to the trade facilitation deal.

"Historical imbalances in trade rules must be corrected to ensure a rule based, fair and equitable order," said commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma at the WTO's plenary session, adding: "We consider it premature to lend support to an inconclusive trade facilitation agreement."

He also made it clear that the proposed "peace clause" of four years is not acceptable. "It must remain in force till we are able to agree on a lasting solution and provide adequate protection from all kinds of challenge," he said.

Qatar too wanted a review of the proposed deal at Bali while Brazil raised concerns on agriculture issues but said it is "essential" to reach a consensus.

"Reaching agreement on agriculture proposals is a necessary part of any early harvest. Food security is also an important part of our discussions," Brazil's foreign minister Luiz Alberto Figueiredo Machado said but hoped for a consensus by the week.

Over 60 countries will place on record their position at the second day of the WTO's ministerial conference on Wednesday. WTO director general Roberto Azevedo is also scheduled to meet trade ministers of all 130 countries to discuss the negotiations.

Sharma in his three minute speech did not mince words. Highlighting the condition of subsistence farmers, he said a trade agreement must be in harmony with shared commitments of eliminating hunger and ensuring the right to food.

"Need of public stock holding of food grains to ensure food security must be respected. Dated WTO rules need to be corrected. The G-33 proposal was mooted precisely for this purpose," he said.

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