By Sridhar Narsing
India is relenting on its stand not to sign the WTO pact on worldwide customs rules that expired on Thursday night boomeranging the entire exercise with a twist that its food security clause be honoured by the parties.
The United States and other members of the World Trade Organization have to agree to Indian’s new demand now to leverage on its insistence to carry on with its food security bill that was passed by the previous Congress government and reiterated by the present BJP-led Modi government.
Though India’s stand follows US Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to New Delhi this week, it was not a final statement on India’s willingness to sign the pact as early as September, if the concessions were agreed upon by other nations.
“It is ridiculous to say the Bali deal is dead,” a senior official at the Udyog Bhavan that houses the trade ministry said. The current Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) pact was agreed during the Indonesian island of Bali summit last year.
“We are totally committed to the TFA, and only asking for an agreement on food security,” said the spokesperson. Another trade official said: “We expect that the (WTO) director general will call a meeting in September and we are ready to sign the deal in September itself, provided TFA and food security issues are passed together. We are quite hopeful for the deal.”
Otherwise, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made it clear that India is not ready to sign the deal unless the poor in the country are protecte under the domestic Food Security Act that was passed by parliament early this year.