New Delhi, Oct : Union Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma on Monday assured the new Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Roberto Carvalho de Azevedo that India would remain fully engaged with all key stakeholders from the developed and developing countries to find a fair and balanced outcome in the Bali Conference.
This was Azevedo’s first visit to India after he assumed charge as the sixth Director General of the WTO on September 1.
Sharma had a detailed discussion with Azevedo on the issues being negotiated for an outcome in the Bali Conference.
Sharma stressed that the centrality of multilateral processes must be retained.
“All Members need to work together to strengthen the WTO as an institution. Though Bali is not the end of the road, it is to be seen as a stepping-stone to conclusion of the Doha Round. The success of this round is critical for multilateralism,” he said.
While recognizing the importance of Trade Facilitation (TF) and upgrading infrastructure at border, ports and custom procedures for giving a boost to exports, Sharma underscored the need for addressing the concerns of food security, which have been outlined in a proposal presented by G-33 countries.
He also observed that food security is the most fundamental of human needs and the lack of it can have profound ramifications as seen during the food price volatility and crises of recent years.
He further said that a solution to the G-33 proposal would be an important contribution by the WTO towards addressing the challenges of food security in developing countries.
He also pointed out that public stockholding programmes are widely used to ensure food security in many developing countries where agriculture is largely rain-fed, and added that updating of the rules would greatly help these countries in carrying out such operations without defaulting on their commitments.
Sharma urged Azevedo to persuade all parties to discuss the food security proposal constructively, and added that developing countries are finding themselves hamstrung by the existing rules in running their food stockholding and domestic food aid programmes.
“The developed world too had market price support programmes and was able to move away from market price support – though not fully even now – because of their deep pockets. This is not possible for developing countries,” he said.
“It is important for developing countries to be able to guarantee some minimum returns to their poor farmers so that they are able to produce enough for themselves and for domestic food security,” he added.
He expressed satisfaction at the intensification of discussion on the G-33 proposal but also voiced his concern about the hardening of positions of some members who are now proposing stringent conditions to be satisfied, before an interim mechanism could be availed of.
On Trade Facilitation Sharma emphasised that it is important to honour the provisions of the mandate relating to special and differential treatment of developing countries including LDCs and support and assistance to such countries.
Both Sharma and Azevedo agreed that a lopsided outcome of the Doha Round is not in anyone’s interest, and it is up the members to participate actively in the negotiations in order to arrive at that balance.
India is firmly with the LDCs on their proposals. India has already implemented Duty Free Quota Free market access for LDCs.
Sharma assured Azevedo of India’s cooperation in striving to achieve a balanced outcome at Bali and an early resolution of remaining issues in the DDA post-Bali. (ANI)