India won’t allow blocking of food security talks at WTO

India won’t allow blocking of food security talks at WTO

India has asserted that it will not allow the negotiations on food stock procurement measures to be blocked at the World Trade Organization (WTO), even as the global trade watchdog is considering an option to defer an outcome on the issue by two years.Around 90 countries, including India, are keen to secure their food stock procurement measures to ensure food security at the WTO’s 13th ministerial conference (MC13) in Abu Dhabi later this month.India’s stance comes amid the WTO considering an option to defer a decision on a permanent solution on public stockholding for food security till the next Ministerial Conference (MC14) likely in 2026 if the members are unable to reach a consensus on the issue.A WTO draft negotiating text has presented two options on public stockholding – a permanent solution based on a proposal made by the 90 countries or setting parameters for continuous discussion to reach a permanent solution at MC14.”India said it will continue to work on it and not allow this negotiation to be blocked,” said a Geneva-based official, who did not wish to be identified.Public stockholding is a policy tool used by governments to purchase, stockpile and distribute food when needed and, hence, crucial for food security.India’s stance is crucial as 90 countries are insisting on an outcome on public stockholding to be at the core of any potential agriculture package at the MC13 since the issue has been deadlocked for more than 10 years.The US has sought more time to come up with a solution and said that only public stockholding can’t be part of the agriculture package at MC13. It wants discussions on issues like providing information on export restrictions at least 30 days prior to the notification.Another official said the text circulated on January 29 has all elements, including public stockholding, but divergent views of the US and EU need to be watched out for. “The US and EU are blocking each other’s positions as the US does not want reforms without market access and the EU does not want anything on market access,” the official said on condition of anonymity.India has also suggested tempering ambitions and timelines set for market access, export restrictions and transparency issues given the highly divergent positions on these matters.(You can now subscribe to our Economic Times WhatsApp channel)

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