"We were clear that we will not negotiate when it comes to food security rights of poor people in developing countries," said Commerce Minister Anand Sharma referring to the recent WTO negotiations at Nusa Dua, Bali, where he had led the Indian delegation. He was addressing an audience of top corporate CEO as keynote speaker on the first day of Business Today's two-day MindRush conclave held at The Oberoi, Gurgaon.
"These are not new issues. They go back to the 2005 Hong Kong ministerial. There have been number of years when the ministerial was non-productive," he said.
The minister pointed out that the situation had been extremely difficult in Bali but India was clear about the issue of food subsidies. "There were intense negotiations," he said.
Sharma said that India on its own has taken a number of steps to facilitate trade, bring down transaction costs, ensure faster clearances and e-enabling its systems. In 2009, when the foreign trade policy was announced, one of the objectives was to make Indian exports competitive globally. Till that time, they were not competitive due to transaction costs," he added.
The Bali deal was crucial for India because developed countries, led by the US and the European Union, were pressuring developing countries, including India, to bring down their food subsidy levels to less than 10 per cent of the overall value of production.
The Bali meet was the first one at which the member-countries of WTO were able to strike a deal after the WTO came into being. Sharma said that "the entire calculation of the subsidies is based on external reference prices of 1986 to 1988. I made it clear that in 2013, I was negotiating on the basis of prices which are 29 years old."
Sharma said that the deal was definitely good for global trade as well. "It will enhance trade, create confidence and in coming years, add $1 trillion to global trade, create opportunities, create jobs and help businesses."
The Bali meet, the minister said, had been able to send a positive message and do so collectively. "We were able to do so in a group with Latin American and African countries. We are grateful to all countries, even those which disagreed with us that finally we reached an understanding," he said.