India seeks permanent solution to long-pending food stockpile issue at Abu Dhabi WTO meet

NEW DELHI, Feb 26: India on Monday called on WTO members to find a permanent solution to the long-pending public food stockpile issue, saying it is directly related to achieving the sustainable development goal of zero hunger by 2030.

Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said that the World Trade Organisation (WTO) should not negotiate rules on non-trade-related subjects like climate change, gender, and labour and rather these should be addressed in respective intergovernmental organizations.

“I re-emphasize that the development agenda would remain incomplete without a permanent solution on public stockholding (PSH) for food security purposes which is directly related to achieving the Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger by 2030, Goyal said.

This continues to be a long-pending issue for the last few decades and despite having a clear mandate agreed by the members in the past,  finding a permanent solution on PSH remains an unaccomplished agenda on which we have to deliver in MC13.

Trade ministers of 164 WTO-member countries are gathering in Abu Dhabi for the 13th ministerial conference (MC13). The highest decision-making body started the four-day meet on February 26 in the UAE.

The PSH programme is a policy tool under which the government procures crops like rice and wheat from farmers at the minimum support price (MSP) and stores and distributes foodgrain to the poor.

Under the global trade norms, a WTO member country’s food subsidy bill should not breach the limit of 10 per cent of the value of production based on the reference price of 1986-88.

India has been seeking amendments to the formula for calculating the food subsidy cap.

As an interim measure, the WTO members at the Bali ministerial meeting in December 2013 had agreed to put in place a mechanism popularly called the Peace Clause and committed to negotiating an agreement for a permanent solution.

Under the Peace Clause, WTO members agreed to refrain from challenging any breach of the prescribed ceiling by a developing nation at the dispute settlement forum of the WTO. This clause will be there till a permanent solution is found to the food stockpiling issue.

“I am confident that with the collective efforts of all of us, MC13 will engage constructively to give an outcome on the long pending mandated issue of permanent solution on PSH for food security, send a strong message that the world cares for the poor, vulnerable and marginalized people,” he said.

Goyal also said that In India, fishermen largely undertake sustenance fishing which addresses hunger, poverty, food and nutrition insecurity of millions of traditional fishers.

“Sustainably harnessing fishing resources is a problem of a magnitude that requires a global consensus, taking into account the interests of disciplined nations like India,” he said.

He added that any discussion on WTO reforms must incorporate consensus-based decision-making and S&DT (special and differential treatment) for emerging economies.

“India firmly believes that any measures taken to combat climate change, including unilateral ones, should not constitute a means of arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination or a disguised restriction on international trade,” the minister said.

Goyal’s statement was posted on the WTO website. (PTI)