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Will protect the interests of our farmers: Nirmala
06 August, 2014   COLORS OF INDIA NEWS AND MEDIA SERVICES






New Delhi, Aug 5 (RDI IBNS): Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday expressed India's stand in the World Trade Organisation and said the government is committed to protect the interests of our farmers against all odds.

India stood firm on its demands despite immense pressure. The Government of India is committed to protecting the interests of our farmers against all odds. Our farmers work in extremely adverse conditions, most of them at the mercy of the vagaries of the monsoon, aggravated today by climate change. For farmers in many developing countries farming is a subsistence activity, not a commercial one. We are committed to their welfare and I am grateful for the support and understanding extended by farmers` organizations in this cause, she said in the Lok Sabha. India is an unwavering votary of the multilateral trading system and we reiterate our commitment to the WTO. We continue to believe that it is in the best interest of developing countries, especially the poorest, most marginalized ones among them and we are determined to work to strengthen this institution. The timely correction of any imbalances or anomalies in the working of the system or its rules is critical to ensure that the WTO works impartially and fairly in the interest of all its Members and not just a select few, she said. Sitharaman said she is confident that India will be able to persuade the WTO Membership to appreciate the sensitivities of India and other developing countries and see their way to taking this issue forward in a positive spirit. This would be a major contribution by this institution towards `meeting the global challenge of food insecurity and would convey -a strong message that .the WTO is genuinely committed to the cause of development, she said. The Bali Ministerial Declaration was adopted on Dec 7, 2013 on conclusion of the Ninth Ministerial Conference of the WTO in Bali. Ministerial Decisions were adopted on ten issues relating to the Doha Development Agenda which is the agenda for the unfinished Doha Round of trade negotiations, underway in the WTO since 2001. Amongst these Ministerial Decisions, two are of particular significance the Ministerial Decision for an Agreement on Trade Facilitation and the Ministerial Decision on Public Stockholding for Food Security Purposes. The Trade Facilitation Agreement is basically aimed at greater transparency and simplification of customs procedures, use of electronic payments and risk management techniques and faster clearances at ports. We have autonomously taken several similar measures such as the `Indian Customs Single Window Project` announced in the Budget 2014-15 to facilitate trade, under which importers and exporters will be able to lodge documents at a single point, reducing interface with Governmental agencies, dwell time and the cost of doing business, Sitharaman said in the House. The Protocol of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) was to be adopted by 31 July 2014 by the WTO. After this the Agreement would automatically come into force from 31 July 2015 if ratified by two-thirds of the members of the WTO. In contrast to their efforts on Trade Facilitation in the WTO, some developed countries have been reluctant to engage on other issues, she said. The Minister said :Seeing the resistance to taking forward the other Decisions, the apprehension of developing countries was that once the process of bringing the Trade Facilitation Agreement into force was completed, other issues would be ignored, including the important issue of a permanent solution on subsidies on account of public stockholding for food security purposes. She said: India, therefore, took the stand that till there is an assurance of commitment to find a permanent solution on public stockholding and on all other Bali deliverables, including those for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), it would be difficult to join the consensus on the Protocol of Amendment for the Trade Facilitation Agreement. She said without a permanent solution, public stockholding programmes in India and other developing countries will be hampered by the present ceiling on domestic support which is pegged at 10 per cent of the value of production and is wrongly considered as trade-distorting subsidy to farmers under existing WTO rules. It is regrettable indeed that today the WTO is unable to agree even to fast track negotiations on an issue of such importance to millions of subsistence farmers across the developing world, while the rich world can continue to subsidise their farmers unabatedly, she said. Sitharaman said issue of food security is a humanitarian concern especially in these times of uncertainty and volatility. She said: Issues of development and food security are critical to a vast swathe of humanity and cannot be sacrificed to mercantilist considerations.

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