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WTO talks collapse, no agreement on food security

PTI | Buenos Aires |

The talks collapsed at the WTO’s 11th ministerial conference with the US reneging on its commitment to finding a permanent solution to the public food stockpile issue, resulting in disappointment to developing countries such as India.

As the US refused to engage, the 164-member World Trade Organisation (WTO) failed to reach a common ground for resolving the food security issue, a demand raised prominently by India.

Even after hectic parleys, the member nations failed to break an impasse over the public food stockholding issue on the fourth and final day of the ministerial conference.

Following the breakdown of talks, there was no ministerial declaration at the end of the meeting, though conference chair and Argentinean Minister Susana Malcorra made a statement highlighting feeble progress made in areas like e-commerce and fisheries.

For India, failure to successfully push the food security issue was a disappointment but the officials took comfort from the fact that the country did not yield any ground on other issues and kept its defensive interests in various fields intact.

The fate of the ministerial conference was sealed after Assistant US Trade Representative Sharon Bomer Lauritsen in a small group meeting said that permanent solution to the food stockholding issue was not acceptable to America.

“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,” said a statement issued by India at the end of the conference.

A dejected WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo expressed disappointment over the way the negotiations progressed and called for soul searching among the members countries.

Malcorra said, “We fell short on various issues, but there is life after Buenos Aires …We need to find ways for removing deadlock and move forward.”

The Indian team led by Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu, in cooperation with the G33 grouping, had pitched hard for permanent solution to food security issue as it was crucial for livelihood of 800 million people across the globe.