Source :Ministry of Commerce & Industry
Rejoinder to factually incorrect information circulated in the Social Media regarding the WTO Ministerial Conference held in Nairobi in December 2015
The Department of Commerce, Government of India has come across a video in Tamil, posted on the social networking site Facebook, where Shri Thirumurugan Gandhi has made factually incorrect statements regarding signing of an Agreement to stop distribution of rice and other provisions through Public Distribution System(PDS), discontinuation of agricultural subsidies and allowing import of food items.
This is completely wrong. No such Agreement was signed.
There were no proposals for closure of ration shops, for discontinuing subsidies to farmers or for allowing imports of food items.
The Statement about the Government stopping procurement of rice/food products and subsidies to farmers is also completely wrong.
Shri Thirumurugan Gandhi’s claim that the agreement has been kept secret is not only baseless, it also reflects upon the knowledge of the speaker about the procedures of the World Trade Organization. The Tenth Ministerial Conference of the WTO resulted in Decisions in the area of agriculture, development and some issues relating to the Least Developed Countries. All these are public documents and are available at the official website of the WTO ( www.wto.org ).
The WTO rules do not bar public procurement for food security purposes. As far as the limit of support is concerned, India has been working to have the WTO rules in this regard updated. This is to ensure that we are not constrained by the WTO rules in making public procurement in future also.
The Ministerial Decision on the issue of Public Stockholding for Food Security Purposes was achieved mainly due to the efforts made by India.
This Government has ensured that no country will ever be able to challenge our procurement/public food distribution programmes for violation of the relevant WTO rules. At the Nairobi Conference, this Government has further ensured that the WTO will have to continue to work on this issue, even if there is no progress on other issues under negotiation.
The Ministerial Decision on the issue of public stockholding for food security purposes adopted in the Nairobi Ministerial Conference reaffirms earlier decisions on the issue adopted at the Bali Ministerial Conference and subsequently by the General Council on 27 November 2014 which when read together, mandate a permanent solution by the 11th Ministerial Conference of the WTO. Even without the permanent solution, India can continue with its public procurement programmes.
The Government of India is conducting Minimum Support Price Scheme for distribution of Rice and other food items through the Public Distribution System through FCI and the agencies of States. This system will in no way be impacted by any of the Decisions taken at the WTO Ministerial Conference. Similarly, there will be no impact of the Decisions on the procurement from the farmers at the MSP, which the Government of India will continue to announce as before. The decision does not, in any way, affect the ability of FCI to procure and store foodstuffs in its godowns.
The statement about stoppage of subsidies to farmers lacks any substance. No agreement was signed that would require the Indian Government to stop giving electricity subsidy, fertiliser subsidy etc.
Protecting India’s agricultural sector is a priority with the Government in trade negotiations.
At the Nairobi Ministerial Conference of the WTO, India also sought and obtained another Ministerial decision on a Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) for agricultural products for developing country Members. The SSM is intended to help developing countries protect their agriculture sector from the effects of, inter alia, a surge in imports of agricultural products. India negotiated a Ministerial Decision which recognizes that developing countries will have the right to have recourse to an SSM as envisaged in the mandate of the Doha Round of trade negotiations. Negotiations for an SSM are to be held in dedicated sessions and the WTO General Council has been mandated to regularly review progress of these negotiations.
Agriculture is a priority with the Government of India and it is also taking a number of steps to ensure the welfare of the farmers. The Government is fully committed to ensure that the subsidies reach the intended beneficiaries in the most efficient manners. Government is also ensuring that the vagaries of nature and other calamities do not affect our farmers through recently introduced Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna. There are many other positive steps taken by the Government to protect the interests and for the welfare of our farmers.