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India to join G-20 fight for farm subsidies

New Delhi, June 13
The new Indian Government will continue to play a crucial role in the G-20 group of nations, which has taken cudgels against the USA and EU in seeking an end to the trade-distorting agricultural subsidies denying the market opportunity to millions of farmers in the developing countries.

Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath, in his address at the G-20 ministerial meeting at Sao Paolo in Brazil, said yesterday that the Congress-led administration would further strengthen and consolidate the G-20.

The Manmohan Singh government attaches the highest priority to the India's role and responsibilities in the grouping of countries whose coming together on agriculture represented a major new development in the negotiating milieu of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

He articulated the point that protecting the interests of the farmer, including the food and livelihood concerns of the vast agro-dependent rural population, should be the primary focus of negotiations on agriculture in the WTO Doha round of negotiations.

Referring to the G-20's recent paper on market access, Mr Kamal Nath said it was a tangible attempt on the part of the group to move the negotiations forward.

By providing a method for treatment of sensitive products and establishing a proportionality based on less than full reciprocity (in reduction commitments for developing countries) the G-20 had, as a negotiating group, offered a solution that would be acceptable to both exporting countries and those among the member countries who were concerned about food and livelihood issues affecting their rural sector.

On the other two pillars of the WTO Agreement on Agriculture - domestic support and export subsidies, Mr Kamal Nath underlined the need to address areas requiring clarification and greater degree of certainty.

For instance, on domestic support, the same principle, as adopted in the market access proposal by the G-20, should be adopted (by developed countries), like deeper cuts on products with higher levels of domestic support.

"We have serious concerns about the proposed new blue box. We are of the view that it would be possible to endlessly maintain distortions by parking them in new slots within the agricultural framework. In the same manner, criteria for the green box need to be clarified to ensure that all trade distorting forms of green box subsidy are completely rooted out."

Substantial overall cut in amber box (prohibited subsidies), de minims and blue box subsidies must be ensured, the minister stressed. Similarly, on export subsidies the emerging issue of parallelism between direct export subsidies and other forms of export support like export credits, guarantees and insurance programmes as well as food aid and state trading enterprises would need clarification.

This had of late assumed significance as the EC had expressed reluctance to eliminate even direct export subsidies, which was of great importance to the G-20 countries.

Earlier, Mr Kamal Nath had a bilateral interaction with Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, coordinator of the G-20, prior to the ministerial meeting of the group. He will also be attending the non-group five meeting. UNI
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