In a major development, around 20 former Indian envoys spoke out against the prejudiced World Trade Organisation (WTO)’s Agreement on Agriculture.
The open letter stated that the Agreement was conceived by the United States and the European Union (EU) without consulting the other members of the World Trade Organisation. “The WTO Agreement on Agriculture is characterised by democratic deficit and based on commercial realpolitik,” the former envoys stated.
The letter argued that domestic subsidies, one of the three pillars of the Agreement, has penalised the developing and least developed countries but not the developed ones.”It is almost as if Special and Differential Treatment was extended to the developed countries and not to the ones who deserve it, namely, the developing and least developed countries,” the letter pointed out.
A group of Indian envoys call spade a spade!— Hardeep Singh Puri (@HardeepSPuri) February 4, 2021
They show mirror to those who, in the WTO, oppose India’s food stockpiling & our grant of MSP & then indulge in doublespeak, subjecting us to pious homilies on farmer protests.
A must read. pic.twitter.com/zdDoYJwi6M
Letter exposes double standards of WTO
The former envoys emphasised that although the US, EU and the UK wanted India to liberalise the agriculture markets, yet several legislators from these countries have expressed open support for anti-farm law agitation in India. “Obviously, you cannot have your cake and eat it too. The balance between market forces and food security/farmers’ welfare is a delicate one and it is the sovereign prerogative of Governments to strike that balance,” they added.
While urging the developed nations to amend the WTO Agreement on Agriculture, the letter stated, “India will gradually and incrementally allow the market to decide prices of agricultural produce, not because of the WTO or because the developed countries are saying so, but because it is in the fundamental interest of the Indian farmers and will enable the latter to double their income.” The ex-envoys reiterated that it would help India and other developing nations to ensure food security and end hunger.
They also highlighted the ironical stance by developed countries on the subject of Agriculture. The US and EU have argued over 50 years that agriculture cannot be subjected to the same General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) rules as shoes and chemicals. However, they are now pushing for ‘special status’ of agriculture in developing nations. “At present, the Agreement has clauses on domestic subsidies and special safeguards which are in favour of farmers of developed countries,” they further added.
US, EU did not consider Indian demands
The letter reiterated that for countries such as India, which actively engages in public stockholding of food grains, the AMS cannot exceed 10% of the value of the production of the commodity. “If there is an import surge of a particular commodity (say wheat or sugar), countries like India want to be able to impose safeguard duties to avoid the danger of their own farmers getting wiped out because of a huge increase in imports,” the former envoys emphasised. They said that the reasonable demand did not find any takers in US or the EU.
Ex-Indian envoys ask WTO to support India’s farm laws
“The WTO faces an existential crisis. If it is to revive itself as a credible forum for negotiations, it must be seen as helping its Members achieve the SDG goals,” the letter said. The former envoys pointed out that India can only achieve the goals through public stockholding since the country did not have a formal ‘social security system’ or a ‘system of unemployment dole’. The letter concluded, “The farm laws passed by the Government recently strike this delicate balance. The developed countries led by US, EU and the Cairns Group have opportunity to be on the right side of history here.”