June 07, 2020
It is disconcerting to hear what has happened at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) ministerial meet at Bali. The government of India has compromised the interest of India, both of its farmers as well as agreeing to the trade facilitation agreement. The government has done so without any quid pro quo on behalf of the developed countries whatsoever.
Government is propagating that with this agreement international trade related hurdles have been removed, as developed countries have agreed, not to raise dispute about support for public stock holding of food grains for food security exceeding the threshold limit of 10% of the total value of agricultural produce.
However, government does not tell people that the agreement reached states, the Agreement of Agriculture (AoA) is in relation to support provided for traditional staple food crops in pursuance of public stockholding programmes for food security purposes “existing as of the date of this Decision”, that is 6th December 2013, provided govt. of India complies ith the conditions agreed upon.
Swadeshi Jagaran Manch believes that the acceptance would effectively mean that the India would have to doaway with food security at some later point of time. We also believe that acceptance of default would be a fait acomplii in the future.
From the very beginning of this conference Indian delegation led by commerce minister Anand Sharma was firm on the demand that, this peace clause is not acceptable to India. On December 5th 2013, in a press conference held at convention premises Anand Sharma said that, food security is non-negotiable for India. Elaborating the present in equitable and unjust system and rules of WTO, he said that the to the formula for calculating support for Public Stock Holding for food security is unreasonably loaded against the developing countries, as the base year for pricing of food grains has been pegged at 1988 prices (25 years old prices). After 1988 prices of food gains have gone up manifold and therefore they cannot be accepted and there is a need to change the WTO rules.
However, by the evening of December 5th scenario changed and Indian delegation softening its stand caved in and gave its consent to the final draft of agreement.
Final draft for agreement as notified by WTO has a clear transparency clause and also mandates that Committee on Agriculture shall monitor the information submitted under this Decision.This implicitly implies that the country will have to admit year after year that it is exceeding the threshold limit of support on public stockholding for food security; and this information is subject to scrutiny by the member countries. Member countries, through a process of consultation, will also have the right to scrutinise the food programmes of India, or for that matter other member countries and in case of any 'breach' the same could be disputed. All these provisions of the agreement clearly indicate at foreign eye on internal policy matters of India and also erosion of sovereignty of the country.
Further, this agreement covers only Agreement on Agriculture (AoA),and not ASCM, without which the programme may be accused of impacting the export market, even if involuntarily, and would be subject to dispute.
For the last five ministerial meetings, though no headway could be made in DDR, but hopes were alive that the issue of unequal treatment for developing countries and LDCs, leading to losses in international trade, would be addressed. It is notable that developed countries give mammoth subsidies and there is a long standing demand of developing countries to reduce these subsidies. However, in the present agreement by agreeing to peace clause, the momentum and pressure built in the last five ministerial conferences, has been suddenly released.
Final draft agreed in Bali, mandates developing countries to ensure various measures of trade facilitation, which includes efforts at simplifying border procedures (e.g. the modalities at the port), so that exports from developed countries could enter developing countries conveniently, without hassles. It is notable that trade deficit is exceeding 10 percent of GDP, and resulting payment crisis is weakening rupee day by day. By providing trade facilitation, imports from rest of the world may flood India, further worsening already difficult external payment position.
Further, several of the provisions under negotiations could hold significant administrative and institutional burdens on LDCs and other developing countries. Meeting the obligations as proposed, is likely to involve significant cost for developing countries. Apart from building, huge infrastructure (both soft and hard) including airports, sea ports, dedicated corridors, roads etc., it would also involve automation of customs system etc. It is unfortunate that no cost assessment has been made by government of India about implementing the provisions of trade facilitation. However, this is a fact that meeting this cost would mean a huge diversion of resources from public services such as health care, food security and education to customs administration.
Thus we can say that the claimed 'victory' of Indian delegation is actually a defeat. This can at best be said to be the victory of present regime, in overcoming possible international trade dispute in implementing food security programme, which is being seen as an election gimmick to garner votes. However in reality, this agreement has actually eroded sovereignty on the one hand and put a ceiling on the freedom of future regimes to announce any more food security programmes. This agreement would in fact encourage food grain imports, sealing the fate of Indian farmers and worsening the payment crisis.
The Swadeshi Jagaran Manch therefore calls upon all right-thinking people of the country to understand and make rest of the people realise that India has failed in Bali due to compromise by UPA government. This 11th National Conference of SJM demands that –
a. government comes out with a detailed statement on the agreement in Bali and its implications for the country.
b. calls upon the countrymen to put pressure on the government of India to change course and failing which raise up a mass movement to challenge these illegal actions of the present compromised UPA .
c. ensure that the new government coming to power after general election is compelled to reverse the course taken by present government and protect interests of the country including restoration of sovereignty and interests of farmers and poor.