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India Urges WTO Members to Find Permanent Solution for Public Stock Holding for Food Security

The headquarters of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva.  (Photo: Reuters/Denis Balibouse/File Photo)

The headquarters of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva. (Photo: Reuters/Denis Balibouse/File Photo)

Commerce Secretary Anup Wadhawan said the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has again brought to the fore the importance of food and livelihood security.

India on Friday urged the members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to work on finding a permanent solution to the issue of public stock holding for food security purposes. Commerce Secretary Anup Wadhawan said the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has again brought to the fore the importance of food and livelihood security.

He "urged the Membership for a permanent solution to Public Stock Holding (PSH) for food security", the Commerce Ministry said in a statement. The comments were made during the final session of India's seventh Trade Policy Review (TPR) which concluded on Friday at the WTO in Geneva.

Wadhawan also informed that India has a stable policy environment with considerably lower applied rates than its WTO commitments. "While emphasizing that India's trade remedial investigations are conducted in a transparent manner and in accordance with WTO provisions, he also mentioned that only a miniscule fraction of India's imports attract these measures," the statement said.

The TPR is an important mechanism under the WTO's monitoring function in which member countries' trade and related policies are examined with an aim to contribute towards improved adherence to WTO rules, while providing constructive feedback to the member under review. More than 1,050 questions were asked and 53 interventions were made by WTO member countries in the TPR meetings.

Under the global trade norms, a WTO member country's food subsidy bill should not breach the limit of 10 per cent of the value of production based on the reference price of 1986-88. Apprehending that the full implementation of food security programme may result in breach of WTO cap, India has been seeking amendments in the formula to calculate food subsidy cap.

As an interim measure, WTO members at the Bali ministerial meeting in December 2013 had agreed to put in place a mechanism, popularly called the Peace Clause, and committed to negotiate an agreement for permanent solution. In his closing remarks, Wadhawan highlighted that reform is a continuous and ongoing process, and "the Government of India is deeply committed to pursuing this path to make India an attractive trade and investment partner for the world".

He also informed that India is striving to forge greater economic and trade linkages with the world by utilising all avenues available, the statement said. Wadhawan conveyed India's deep commitment to the multilateral trading system and continued positive role in the international fora and informed the member nations about New Delhi's commitment on streamlining and simplifying the overall domestic business environment even further with an aim to break into the top 50 in the World Bank's Doing Business Report.

The Discussant for India's TPR, Ambassador Sunanta Kangvalkulkij of Thailand, in her concluding remarks, appreciated India's efforts and commitment towards this transparency exercise, the release said. She strongly commended the steps taken by India in the past five years on wide-ranging economic issues.

Introduction of a path-breaking structural reform in the form of Goods and Services Tax by India, during the review period, was also commended, the release said. "The Discussant specifically observed India's proactive efforts in the implementation of WTO's Trade Facilitation Agreement and the role played by it in furthering 'Ease of Doing Business' in the country, while observing the highly improved ranking of India in the 'Trading across Borders' indicator under the Doing Business Report," it added.

She also noted that the WTO Membership has been appreciative of the steps taken by India for liberalizing its FDI regime and India's National Intellectual Property Rights Policy, 2016.

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