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India seeks agriculture reforms at WTO meeting


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India hopes to reach a deal on a key element of agricultural reform as well as the restoration of the World Trade Organization’s arbitration powers at a high-level meeting in Abu Dhabi this week, its trade minister said on Wednesday.

India’s Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal is expected to be one of the main players at the four-day talks where delegates are seeking deals on fisheries and digital trade tariffs.

“Unless we build trust with each other and we deliver on what has already been promised and agreed, any engagement on other issues will only be subsequent,” Goyal told Reuters on the sidelines of the meeting on Wednesday.

He added that some members were seen to be blocking potential routes to a permanent solution to the issue of public stockholding (PSH) – state policies on food procurement aimed at ensuring food security – and the WTO’s hobbled dispute-resolution system, reducing confidence in the world’s biggest trade body.

“All these old things have to be sorted out… I do hope the ministerial conference will finally find a solution and get the appellate body for trade disputes back in shape,” Goyal said.

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The trade ministers of the Group of 33 nations led by Indonesia and India met ahead of the WTO conference, seeking a permanent solution to the issue of PSH programmes for food security in developing and poor countries.

India has said the WTO’s development agenda would remain incomplete without a permanent solution, seen as crucial for achieving the global goal of zero hunger by 2030.

Goyal missed the first two days of the Abu Dhabi meeting due to other political engagements in India and said he was amused by the excitement his absence had generated.

Some richer countries say that PSH programmes, particularly where they involve subsidies offered to farmers such as in India, distort global agriculture trade. India says it needs to provide food security for its 1.4 billion people.

In Tuesday’s session on agriculture, which Goyal did not attend, India pointed out that some developed countries were providing much higher subsidies to their rich farmers.

Goyal said if India felt that all members were working cooperatively, then he believed lots could be done at this meeting.

“I am a born optimist,” he said. (Reuters)



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