WTO’s General Council to meet tomorrow in Geneva

NEW DELHI :  The crucial meeting of WTO’s General Council at Geneva, which was expected to approve the trade pact following resolution of differences between India and the US on the food security issue, has been postponed by a day.
“The meeting was postponed for tomorrow. We expect a positive outcome from the meeting,” a senior official said.
The meeting may retain the deadline for implementation of the trade facilitation agreement (TFA) by the July 2015. Besides, it is expected to extend ‘peace clause’ till a permanent solution is found to the food stockpiling issue of developing countries including India.
India had refused to ratify the TFA in Geneva meet in late July till the WTO members found a permanent solution to the issue public stock holding of foodgrains for the food security programme.
On November13, India and the US resolved their differences over the public stockholding issue at the WTO, paving the way for implementation of the pending TFA to ease customs norms.
As per the agreement, the US will support India’s proposal at WTO that ‘peace clause’, crucial for uninterrupted implementation of India’s food security programme, should continue indefinitely till a permanent solution is found.
This will enable India to continue procurement and stocking of foodgrain for distribution to poor under its food security programme without attracting any kind of action from WTO members even if it breaches the 10 per cent subsidy cap as prescribed by the multilateral trade body.
As per the Bali agreement, the peace clause was to continue till 2017.
The differences on the public stock holding of foodgrains between the developed countries led by the US and developing nations including India led to impasse over ratification of the TFA at Geneva in July.
The agreement between the US and India, according to the WTO would provide a basis to intensify consultations with other WTO members to overcome the present stalemate and to promptly implement all Bali ministerial decisions.
India has been demanding extension of the peace clause so that it could continue providing subsidised foodgrains to its poor without being challenged in the WTO.
Under the peace clause, a WTO member gets immunity against penalty for breaching the food subsidy cap. As per the WTO norms, a developing nation can provide food subsidy of up to 10 per cent of the total farm output.
The TFA is being pushed by the US and other developed world as they seek to bolster their sagging economies through unhindered international trade by way of a uniform and easy procedures at customs.
India is implementing the Food Security Act which entitles 82 crore people to 5 kgs of foodgrain per person in a month at the rate of Rs 1-3 per kg. The country needs 62 million tonnes of foodgrain in a year to implement the law. (AGENCIES)


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