In an apparent reference to the United States, India on Thursday blamed “the strong position of one member” for the failure of four days of talks at the World Trade Organization conference in Buenos Aires this week.
The conference ended without any declaration or substantial outcome. The United States, too, blamed “one WTO member [India] with an extreme position” for blocking a joint ministerial declaration of the 164 members, Reuters reported.
In 2014, after a long impasse, India and the US had reached an understanding at the WTO that they would find a permanent solution to the problem of public stockholding, which is vital to ensuring food security in India.
However, India said the US went back on the commitment on agricultural reform at this week’s conference. The US’ statement that it would not accept a permanent solution disappointed developing countries, which want reforms on the problem of food subsidies.
“Unfortunately, the strong position of one member against agriculture reform based on current WTO mandates and rules led to a deadlock without any outcome on agriculture or even a work programme for the next two years,” India’s Commerce Ministry said after the conference.
The WTO caps subsidies for developing countries so that global prices are not adversely affected. The matter arose out of concerns that India would need to breach the WTO’s subsidy limit to feed its poor through food security schemes. India proposed either amending the formula to calculate the food subsidy cap, which is currently based on prices from 1986-1988, or allowing the country to act outside of the limitation.
The trade organisation had accepted India’s demand to breach the limit till a permanent solution was found.
WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo expressed disappointment and called for soul-searching among the member nations, PTI reported. He said that in multilateral negotiations, “you do not get what you want, but you get what is possible”.