NEW DELHI: The World Trade Organization (WTO) reached a historic deal on Saturday morning after all 160 members agreed to a package of measures that is expected to boostglobal trade by $1 trillion through standard customs procedures, and gave developing countries room to provide subsidised food to the poor.
India secured a deal which would allow it to offer farm subsidies for public stockholding and food security programmes without inviting any censure. It will now be able to smoothly implement its ambitious Food Security Act, which would otherwise have led to breaching of the farm subsidy limit allowed under the WTOpact of 1994.
“For the first time in our history, the WTO has truly delivered,” WTO chief Roberto Azevedo told ministers after the talks. The first agreement under the multilateral trade body after it was set up in 1995 will provide some impetus to the WTO that risked losing relevance after a series of failures had caused many countries to prefer bilateral trade agreements. “We have put the ‘world’ back in the WTO,” Azevedo said. “We’re back in business.”
India had stood firm on its right to provide food to the poor through the three days of tough negotiations asking for immunity from all WTO disputes under agreement on agriculture till the time a permanent solution was found. The WTO agreement on agriculture limits food subsidies to 10% of the output. The developed countries were offering a 4-year “peace clause” to developing countries. India finally got its own way late Friday evening. “I see it as a victory of the Indian farmers. Many doubts were raised, our strength questioned and our capacity to withstand pressure doubted. We stood firm. As a consequence of this decision, procurement operations of developing countries will not be constrained by their existing farm support limits under the agreement on agriculture [of WTO],” commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma said after the release of the draft ministerial declaration.