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WTO chief to visit India, govt eyes food security solution

India is going to up its ante on seeking a permanent solution to the food security issue at the WTO even as director general Roberto Azevêdo is visiting India this month.

Azevêdo, who is coming to Jaipur to take part in the CII Partnership Summit from January 15-17, will be meeting Minister of State (Independent Charge) Nirmala Sitharaman during the visit.

He might visit New Delhi to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and others, according to officials. But this has not been confirmed yet.

The WTO director general’s visit comes at a time when the date for the next WTO ministerial meeting, the highest decision-making body, has been finalised. The 10th ministerial meet will be taking place in Nairobi, Kenya from December 15-18 this year.

During their meeting in Jaipur, Sitharaman is expected to discuss the possible stance India might take in seeking a permanent solution to the issue of food stockholding and farm subsidies.

The meeting in Jaipur will be followed by an informal meeting of trade ministers from US, Australia and India among others on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum Summit at Davos this month, where it is expected that the post-Bali work programme will be discussed.

Last year in November the WTO signed its first such multilateral pact since its inception – Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA). It also simultaneously agreed to grant an interim relief to India and other developing countries on food stocks schemes until a permanent solution to the issue is achieved, which was seen as a major victory by the Modi government.

The TFA is expected to inject $ 1 trillion into the global economy by way of easing global customs norms and facilitating smoother transition of goods across international borders.

Issues concerning the post-Bali work programme will also be discussed by all members during the next General Council meet that is scheduled to take place in February 20 at the WTO headquarters in Geneva.

This will be Azevêdo’s first visit to India since assuming the present role in September 2013. He last visited India early that year when he was running for the post.

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