Sunday, November 24, 2013
The Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has issued the following statement:
The Polit Bureau of the CPI(M) expresses concern at the efforts to defeat the G 33 proposal on public food stockholding, which is being negotiated in the backdrop of the next ministerial meeting of the WTO in Bali in December 2013.
The G-33 had tabled a proposal on food security at the WTO that argues that public food programmes for supporting livelihoods of small farmers and food consumption of the poor should be allowed without limits, by changing the existing Agreement on Agriculture (AoA).
We understand that all important elements of the G 33 proposal have been rejected by the WTO Secretariat and only a so called ‘peace clause’ (or due restraint clause) on the G-33 proposal is being discussed. A ‘peace clause’ means that the use of measures to procure food-grains by developing countries to promote food security would continue to be deemed illegal but WTO Members will not go to dispute settlement for a certain period. Such a ‘peace clause’ will be effective only for four years and does not guarantee that a permanent solution will eventually be negotiated. Further, the conditions sought to be imposed, for invocation of the ‘peace clause’ provision, are severe and would may make it virtually impossible for any developing county to use it.
If the WTO does not pass the amendment proposed by the G-33 countries, it would allow the perpetuation of an extremely iniquitous arrangement in the Agreement on Agriculture (under the WTO), through which rich countries can continue to support their farmers and people without adequate access to food, while developing countries such as India are prevented from taking such measures. For example, the provision of 60kg/person-per year of food-grains under the weak Food Security Act, recently passed by the Indian Parliament, will be deemed illegal as per WTO rules while the US can continue to provide 385Kg/person for food aid under several programmes like the food coupons, child nutrition programmes etc.
The proposed ‘peace clause’ is by no means a fair resolution of the issue and should be rejected by India. Continuance of the present WTO rules regarding food stockholding will not only jeopardize present efforts in India to ensure food security for millions of hungry people, but will also make it impossible to further strengthen such measures in the future.
The Polit Bureau demands that India should not give in to this unjust pressure from the WTO Secretariat and the EU and the US and continue to press for fundamental changes in WTO rules so that food subsidy programmes are not designated as illegal.