India could not accept a World Trade Organisation (WTO) proposal on food security, the country said yesterday, casting a gloom over a high-stakes conference tasked with salvaging the organisation’s faltering efforts to liberalise world trade.
A proposal that New Delhi felt could endanger its efforts to subsidise food and support farmers “cannot be accepted”, India’s Anand Sharma told his fellow trade and commerce ministers gathered on the Indonesian resort island of Bali.
“Agriculture sustains millions of subsistence farmers. Their interests must be secured. Food security is essential for 4 billion people of the world,” he said.
“Yes, we have rejected it,” he told journalists later, calling it a “final decision”.
WTO director-general Roberto Azevedo has implored delegates to reach a modest agreement on various measures, hoping it will keep alive the WTO’s stumbling 12-year drive to slash trade barriers. But chances for success have increasingly centred on India’s position on food security, and Sharma’s comments seemed to scupper hopes for compromise.
Azevedo has issued escalating warnings that failure to leave Bali with an accord could render obsolete the WTO’s push to secure a trading environment that is fair to both rich and poor countries.
He has said alternative regional pacts between major trading nations, including the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership pushed by Washington, cannot ensure such equity.
“What is at stake is the cause of multilateralism itself,” Azevedo said on Tuesday.
The WTO launched the Doha round of talks in Qatar in 2001, seeking to overhaul the world trading system by setting a global framework of rules and tearing down barriers.
But protectionist disputes between rich and poor countries have made a deal elusive.
Pulling back, the WTO has put forward a limited “Bali package” on specific issues, hoping a deal on those measures can keep the Doha round on life support for a later push. – Sapa-AFP