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Sitharaman to meet WTO’s Azevêdo today

Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is going to have a meeting with World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Roberto Azevêdo on Friday, even as India is gearing up to seek a permanent solution for the country’s food stockholding programme.

The meeting is expected to take place on the sidelines of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) Partnership Summit underway here. India’s ambassador to the WTO, Anjali Prasad, will be present at the meeting.

Sitharaman is expected to take up issues that India is going to raise with the trade ministers of the US, European Union (EU), Canada, Australia and New Zealand, among others, on the margins of the World Economic Forum in Davos on January 24.

The WTO has already announced dates for its next ministerial, taking place for the first time after the Bali meeting in 2013. The tenth meeting WTO ministerial conference, the highest decision making body in WTO, will take place in Nairobi, Kenya, from December 15-17. The government has already stated what it expects the members to arrive at in the form of a permanent solution for the public stockholding for food security purposes. The deadline to achieve the permanent solution is December 2015.

India was able to obtain a so-called ‘Peace Clause’, an interim measure under which it can continue to offer subsidies to farmers. The cap, according to WTO rules, is 10 per cent of the total production of the crops that are covered under the food stockholding programme.

The Peace Clause also insulates India and other developing countries that follow a similar food stocks programmes from challenges by other WTO members, even for violation of global rules on farm subsidies. At present, India offers subsidies in the form of ‘minimum support price’ for rice, wheat and cereals. However, the ‘Peace Clause’ does not come for free. India, along with other developing countries, has to adhere to some strict conditions to avail of the interim relief.

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