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No compromise on food subsidy at WTO: India

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New Delhi, Nov 29 (IANS) India will not offer any compromise on its food subsidy programme at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) ministerial meeting next week, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said Friday.

Addressing a media conference here ahead of the trade liberalisation talks in Bali next week, Sharma said the Indian government’s decision to provide food subsidy to poor people is a sovereign one and should not be taken up at the multilateral forums like the WTO.

“As far as what we give to our poor people, that is our right and that is insulated in entirety from any multilateral negotiations or WTO negotiations. That is the sovereign space and for India it is sacrosanct and non-negotiable,” the minister said.

Several WTO member countries, especially from the developed world, have reservations about India’s food subsidy programme. They fear that due to the ambitious social security programme introduced earlier this year, India’s agriculture subsidy would breach 10 percent cap under the WTO agreements.

Developed countries have proposed an interim solution called “peace clause” under which India would not attract any penalty even if it breaches 10 percent cap. The temporary relief is proposed for four years.

Sharma said India would push for a permanent solution at the Bali ministerial meeting.

“India expects all countries to commit to negotiating all issues for a permanent solution and this element separately and specifically to be focused under the separate work programme when it comes to food security,” he said.

Sharma will lead Indian delegation at the 9th ministerial conference WTO to be held in Bali, Indonesia, Dec 3-6. All 159 member countries of the WTO are expected to participate in the Conference with delegations headed by their respective ministers.

The broad areas figuring in the agenda of the conference include: trade facilitation; agriculture negotiations; and development issues relating to the least developed countries (LDCs).

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