Yielding on 4-year window, India walks away with WTO deal

Anand SharmaThe decision will take forward the stalled Doha Round of global trade talks under the WTO after a 12-year gap. IE

After over 30 hours of gruelling negotiations over the last two days of the World Trade Organization ministerial conference, India got across its concerns over food security, while accepting, as part of a trade facilitation pact, lower trade barriers to speed up movement of goods through customs.

The decision will take forward the stalled Doha Round of global trade talks under the WTO after a 12-year gap. The decision will also provide the UPA government space to roll out its food security act without running foul of the global trade regime.

India and other developing countries have been given a four-year window until the Eleventh Ministerial as an interim solution — or 'peace clause' — but during which a permanent mechanism will have to be finalised for public stockholding for food security.

"It's a great win. It's a historic decision. It is a victory not only for India but for all developing countries," Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said after an informal meeting of the 159 member nations with WTO chief Roberto Azevedo.

The decision covers all existing and future food security programmes of developing countries.

An official said that updation of food prices that are currently linked to 1986-87 prices will be reviewed during the post-Bali work programme, and a new formula for calculating subsidies drawn up.

"India was steadfast about a horizontal balance in the Bali package not only for itself but also for all developing countries," Sharma said, adding that India's demand for an "umbilical linkage" between the interim and permanent solution was also accepted.

But developing nations will be bound to notify the WTO's Committee on Agriculture if they are in danger of capping the 10 per cent subsidy limit. Market-distorting activities are prohibited, and actions would be monitored closely by the WTO.

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