India stands vindicated; UN body supports Narendra Modi Govt’s WTO veto

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A United Nations body too has supported India's tough stand at the World Trade Organisation on the food security issue.
In a major boost for Narendra Modi-led NDA Government, a United Nations body too has supported India's tough stand at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on the food security issue. The International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) on Monday said that ensuring food for its people is more important than creating jobs in other nations.

What has IFAD said?

"Creating jobs for some other country, while people are still hungry, doesn't make sense... If I was in the position of feeding my own family or creating jobs for someone else, what would I do? What would you do?," IFAD president Kanayo Nwanze told PTI.

"The bottom line is that every government has the responsibility to ensure that it can feed its own people," he said, while replying to a question whether he supports India's tough stand at the WTO. Echoing similar sentiments, IFAD's country director for India Nigel Brett said India has a big task to feed its people.

Asserting its real concern of food subsidies, India on Thursday blocked the Trade facilitation agreement. The TFA is the first global trade reform since the creation of WTO, 19 years ago.

Though trade diplomats in Geneva have termed this step of India as regressive and suicidal but India has made its position clear that first address our issue (food subsidies) then only we( some of the developing countries) will sign the TFA deal which was agreed upon last year in Bali, Indonesia. And the support coming from IFAD vindicates India's stand that any nation's first priority is to keep the interests of its own people.

While meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry, Prime Minister Narendra Modi clearly stated that Developing countries have a big challenge to tackle the poverty and its Governments' duty to address the problem facing by these deprived section of people. Prime Minister told Kerry,"While we don't oppose the agreement, we believe that the needs of those living on the margins of society, not just in India but elsewhere too, have to be addressed".

What are India's contentions?

  • India wants its parallel demand of food subsidy be heard along with TFA deal.
  • New WTO rules limit the value of food subsidies at 10 per cent of the total food grain production considering 1986 as the base year.
  • India is opposing it saying the rule with which food subsidies is being limited is outdated.
  • India is raising its concerns by saying that while US is providing $120 billion, to its 3 million farmers, as agriculture subsidy then why India can't give even one tenth ($12 billion) to its farmers. Currently India gives a food subsidy of barely 15 billion dollars to its 500 million farmers.
  • India is home to about 25 per cent of the world's hungry and they depend upon Government's subsidized food programme. India provides food subsidies through programme under Food security Bill and PDS system.

What is TFA and the controversy surrounding it? 

  • Trade facilitation agreement (TFA) is a trade protocol aiming to give a spur and do away with the stumbling blocks in doing international trade between various countries.The deadline to sign the agreement was July 31 and the deal has to come into force fully by 2015.
  • It is being believed, especially by the proponents of the agreement that deal could add $1 trillion to global GDP and can also generate 21 million jobs by slashing red tape and streamlining customs.
  • The developing country especially India and South Africa want that before pushing for this TFA why is WTO not discussing and allaying their concerns on food subsidy which is a lifeline for millions of poor in these countries.

A victory for Modi's diplomacy?

This support coming from a UN body would help India make its voice heard more firmly on the international platform. This support from the IFAD is yet another diplomatic success for the Narendra Modi dispensation which was being criticised by developed nations for blocking the WTO deal.

It is expected that IFAD's support would force the US and the European Union to once again consider India's demand for future of TFA. But, Modi Government's real victory will be when its demands are fulfilled by the developed nations.

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