Intervention by Commerce & Industry Minister Shri PiyushGoyalat the G-33 Ministerial Meeting at the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference held in Geneva

azadi ka amrit mahotsav

Thank you very much Chairperson. Ministers, Excellencies, Distinguished delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen. I would like to thank Indonesia for organising the G-33 meeting at the very start of the MC-12 giving us an opportunity to renew our solidarity. It is clear that the two items primarily on the agenda this time will look upon a solution to public stockholding, and the special safeguard mechanism that many of the earlier speakers before me have spoken about.

At the outset, I would like to say that it would have been better if the Director General was also present to hear the concerns of the developing world and I feel it is unfortunate that in her brief comments she referred to a decision that has been made not once, not twice but thrice, as a mere iteration and I would urge the Chair to convey if it is agreed by all my friends here, that it was not a declaration but a decision that was made in 2013, again in 2015 and then again in 2018 that we are sitting down here to discuss.

India has had an experience to transit a food deficit nation to a largely self sufficient food nation. In our state support in the form of subsidies and other Government interventions played a very important role to achieve this sufficiency. We are fighting for all the developing countries including the LDCs collectively based on our own journey, our own experience.

Let us look at the story so far. It starts from the Uruguay round where to my mind,  after 8 years of negotiations right up till 1994 when the Marrakesh agreement was finally decided and led to the establishment of the WTO. Agriculture got a raw deal- imbalanced outcomes and those who were distorting markets by granting import subsidies secured to continue to grant export subsidies under the Agreement on Agriculture (AOA). At that time many of us, rather most of us being less developed or least developing countries were not giving out subsidies, so therefore since we were not giving subsidies in the base period, we lost our right to grant significant subsidies in the future. Further, the rules of agreement largely suited the developed countries socio-economic architecture, higher entitlement of subsidies for the developed world were institutionalised and the very formula for calculation of market price support was quite flawed and frozen at that point of time. 

Developing countries including the LDCs are always at the receiving end, we are made to compromise, sometimes debate multiple times on the same subject and also times where there’s already been agreed is reopened leading to backsliding of earlier mandates, and I will explain what I mean by that. In the Ministerial Conference of 11th December 2013, it was decided and I repeatedly decided that the members agree to put in place an interim mechanism, to negotiate on an agreement for a permanent solution for adoption by the 11th Ministerial Conference. The process had been fixed and we agreed on this, in lieu of the agreement on trade facilitation which the developed world was very keen to adopt.

I am reading out from this declaration, I believe it was an important element in para 8 of work program, there is a para 8 which says and I quote “Members agree to establish a work program to be undertaken in the committee on agriculture to pursue this issue with the aim of making recommendations for a permanent solution, para 9 says “Members commit to the work program with the aim of concluding it no later than the 11th Ministerial Conference” and para 10 “The general council shall report to the 10th Ministerial Conference… the progress made on the work program.”  I am reminding you this because what is sought to be done at this conference, the Ministerial Conference 13 is to rewrite that same script.

On 28th November 2014, the General Council has reiterated the decision of 27th November 2014 on public stockholding security purposes and then it states recognising the importance of public stockholding of food security purposes for developing countries, besides that again it was a decision until a permanent solution is agreed and adopted … in pursuance of public stockholding programmes in security proposies, it was decided and what we call peace clause till the permanent solution is finalised will continue.  Again they had said if a permanent solution is not approved and adopted in the 11th Ministerial conference the mechanism referred to in para 1 shall continue to be in place until a permanent solution is agreed and adopted and for which again they say, the negotiations  for the permanent solution on the issue of public stockholding for food security purposes shall be pursued on priority, this is 2014. Also, they said the negotiation on this subject shall be held in the committee on Agriculture in a special session in dedicated session and accelerated time period, distinct from the agricultural negotiations under the Doha Development Agenda.

Again, while reporting in 2015 to the Ministerial Conference in tenth session,  they took note of progress made so far and decided that they reaffirm the General council decision of 2014 members shall engage constructively to negotiate and make all concerted efforts to agree and adopt developments made. Why I am saying all this is what is the logic of saying that there will be a fresh work program and that there will be a ministerial declaration in MC12. It is already out there, it is already an ongoing process. Is it a point to restart the negotiations from scratch and bringing it at par with all the different subjects which are at different stages of negotiations as sought to be finalised today, is it being done to try and fish us out on an agreement in fisheries by offering a work program. I still think we all need to reflect on what was decided should be pursued and included this time or whether it should once again be agreed for a work program and taking us back to square one, eight years or nine years after the initial agreement. 

Friends, India and all of us in this G33 group of members have long been calling for accessible and effective Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) in order to address the destabilizing and crippling effects of import surges and downward price movement largely due to huge subsidies by the developed members. They already have an aggregate measure of support entitlement which is quite large since there was already huge subsidies which were kept at a standstill many years almost 5 years ago. This is so, more particularly in the wake of volatility of the prices observed post pandemic an outcome remains for many members an important element of the agricultural package.

Similarly, you will agree with me that the Agreement on Agriculture which is already riddled with deep imbalances favour the developed countries which have created the rules against many developing countries and that is quite evident from what is happening in the world’s part.

It is important that as a first step of agricultural reform the historical asymmetries  and imbalances must be corrected in order to ensure a rule based fair and equitable order. We must level the playing field and give our farmers a chance to provide security to our people. We must continue to preserve the existing S&DT for the developing countries which will help our struggling farmers particularly those who are keeping out the subsistence living. The flexibilities provided under the development clauses under Article 6.2 of the Agreement on Agriculture should not be touched in the name of domestic support reform. 

In conclusion, let me stress that all of us must work collectively to retain the cohesion of this coalition and strengthen it further by reaching out to other like minded countries, secure their support for a fair, balanced and development centric outcome, which must include the permanent solution to public stockholding and the Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM). 

Thank you for your attention, Ladies and Gentlemen and Chair. But, I wanted to bring back the entire historical perspective so that each one of us back to our leadership and takes a more stronger to be able to achieve the decided outcomes.



Source PIB