Developing countries like India and South Africa
wanted that the issues related to food security and subsidy be discussed before
pushing for the TFA as they are important issues concerning millions of poor
people living across the globe.
"India is of the view that the Trade Facilitation
Agreement must be implemented only as part of a single undertaking including the
permanent solution on food security," said Anjali Prasad, the Indian Ambassador,
at the WTO meeting.
The stand of India has disappointed most of the
developed countries including the United States who press on quick ratification
of TFA that, as estimated by many, would add $1 trillion to global GDP and can
also generate 21 million jobs by slashing red tape and streamlining customs.
"We are extremely discouraged that a small handful
of members in this Organisation are ready to walk away from their commitments at
Bali, to kill the Bali agreement, to kill the power of that good faith and
goodwill we all shared, to flip the lights in this building back to dark,"
Deputy US Trade Representative Michael Punke said in his.
While Michael Punke’s mention of “small and
handful members” is seen as an attempt to undermine the interests of a
significant population of poor, Indian’s Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala
Sitharaman countered Punke’s statement saying, “Bali is a package, you can’t
have standalone deals on it,” as quoted by the Hindu Businessline.
In its statement, India said that a single
undertaking and permanent solution was important so that millions of farmers and
the poor families who depend on domestic food stocks do not have to live in
“To jeopardise the food security of millions at
the altar of a mere anomaly in the rules is unacceptable,” said the statement
where India placed its stand very clearly.
While appealing the WTO council to convene special
sessions to work out a permanent solution, India wanted its subsidies for food
procurement to be excluded from the category of trade distorting subsidies. It
also demanded that the current year be fixed as the base year for calculating
food subsidies instead of 1986.
“All we are asking is that the public stockholding
issue should be taken forward in the same timeframe as trade facilitation,” said
the statement adding that “We will not only be able to find a permanent solution
on the issue of public stockholding for food security but will also be able to
implement trade facilitation agreement in the agreed timeframe as well,”
provided all WTO members demonstrate same energy and commitment on the other
Instead, “to make matters worse, persistent
efforts are being made to subvert the mandate by divesting it of its core
elements,” India said in its statement deceptively referring to US and other
Seeing the voice of India as a road block for the
trade pact, Punke said, "It is profoundly disappointing that we have arrived at
“I do want to speak very directly about the issue
of public stockholding for food security, because it has been a focal point of
attention," he added.
“We have not blocked the deal. If that is the
interpretation, God only knows how many times WTO has been blocked. Nobody said
that WTO was blocked in 2006, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2013 when talks were derailed
due to tough posturing by industrialised nations,” said K R Sudhaman of
Financial Chronicle quoting a commerce ministry official who also said, “Food
security is not an esoteric issue, it is a relevant and real issue."
While members, including developing countries such
as Nigeria, Pakistan and Thailand, backed the trade facilitation deal, India's
opposition attracted support from Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia, who expressed
their disappointment saying that only the rich countries had got what they
wanted from the Bali conference.
Terming India’s hard stand as “backsliding” that
has brought WTO to the “brink of crisis,” US Trade Representative Michael Froman
said in a statement that “The United States would consult with other WTO members
on appropriate next steps.”
The opposition to the standalone trade
facilitation deal, which has been strongly pushed by industrialised members of
WTO, by India and several other developing countries including South Africa has
raised questions over the objective of WTO and the commitment of developed
countries towards the wellbeing and development of the poor against their market
expansionist strategies for fulfilment of trade interests.
The primary question is – Should the interests of
millions of poor be sacrificed to open the market for leading manufacturers that
comes with a mask of development? And, the bigger question is – Aren’t the
developed countries demonstrating their irresponsibility by neglecting the cause
of food safety of millions of poor just to expand their market and promote free
As the US Secretary of State John Kerry is
scheduled to visit India on July 30, he may have to face these questions from