India, US tussle over grain procurement at WTO meet – Times of India

by The Technical Blogs

NEW DELHI: Despite the recent show of India-US bonhomie on trade issues, the issue of public procurement of grains by FCI, known as public stockholding in international parlance, is proving to be a major bone of contentions ahead of next month’s ministerial meeting of WTO, where government is pushing for sealing a final deal.
India wants a “permanent solution”, something that was agreed to over a decade ago, so that there is certainty around its procurement programme for wheat and rice, instead of a temporary solution where any breach in prescribed limit can be challenged. The US and the EU have, however, used it as a bargaining tool to push their agenda and delay a decision every two years.
At a meeting in Geneva on Tuesday, the US is said to have bluntly said that finding a permanent solution was “not possible” at next month’s meeting in UAE, given the divergence in views.
Indian officials, however, insisted that public stockholding has to be dealt with separately on a fast-track, without linkages as per the existing mandates, and demanded a solution by next month, sources familiar with deliberations said.
At the meeting, the US officials argued that “peace clause”, which allows countries to avoid any dispute at WTO till a permanent solution is found, has helped India procure rice above market price and become the largest rice exporter, a charge that government has denied.
Apart from India, several other developing countries, including China and African and Caribbean nations, are pushing for a solution at a time when food security is at the core of government policy, considering shortage of grains and import restrictions in several parts of the world.

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