Countries need to reach consensus in WTO for global food security Dr Islam Siddiqui

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    There has to be compromise on the part of both, developed and developing countries to reach the consensus in World Trade Organisation. Otherwise, the logjam will weaken the importance of WTO in reaching consensus for global food security.

    This was opined by Dr. Islam A Sidduqui, Senior Advisor – Global Food Security Project at Washington based Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS).

    Speaking to R&M, the former Chief Agricultural Negotiator, US Trade Representative, Dr Siddiqui said, “We could not reach on consensus in Geneva. The developing countries expect more concessions from the advance economies in eliminating agricultural export subsidies and significantly reducing subsidies to their farmers while the advance economies want more market access from the developing countries.”

    “In the US, the import duties in agricultural commodities are around 5 to 6 percent. In India, this is in double digits. It is one of the highest in the world. The consensus in WTO negotiations can only come when developed countries also recognise that developing countries need support,” added Dr. Siddiqui who was the key person behind US negotiations in WTO in the Obama Administration between 2010 and 2014.

    As per the mandate of Bali WTO ministerial meeting in 2013, the negotiations between various countries before the meeting in Nairobi in December 2015 were supposed to strive for a consensus. This is already November now, the ministerial meeting will be held next month, but there’s still no agreement has taken place.

    As far as food security is concerned, in Bali, it was demanded by the Indian negotiator, especially then Indian Commerce Minister, Anand Sharma that no country can take India to the WTO dispute resolution as India was already exceeding the commitment towards WTO. This is called a ‘peace clause’ which India has until 2017. After India’s insistence in Bali, it was decided if WTO fails to reach to an agreement by 2017, this peace clause may continue beyond that.

    “In another word, India is in a safe position if no agreement is reached to address the food security issue, this peace clause would continue,” Dr. Siddiqui added.

    (The full interview will be published in the December issue of Rural & Marketing)