Rajya Sabha

December 10, 2014

Sukhendu Sekhar Ray asks for clarity on Minister’s statement of India’s stand on WTO | Transcript

First of all I am going to submit that this should not be taken as a criticism or opposition to government’s policy but it should be treated as a concern because I think it is a national concern. With the advent of WTO and the way the economic expansion of the developed countries are being perpetuated through WTO it is very difficult for developing countries like India to withstand the onslaught.

Anand Sharma who was the Hon’ble Commerce Minister tried to make some headway but not to the extent it was intended to. Similarly even after doing overtime, the Hon’ble Commerce Minister Sitaraman ji, the expected result is very much gloomy.

Sir, I am giving two or three points – The present Agreement with USA is an improvement over the WTO Agreement at Bali. There are many issues remaining which are not good for India. For instance, the formula for calculating public stock holding for food security is unreasonably loaded against the developing countries. As rightly pointed out by Mr Tyagi, the 1986-88 prices are used while we are in 2014.

Since 1986-88, the prices of food grains have gone up many folds. Now the Government of India pays Rs 1400 per quintal to farmers for procurement of wheat and price for food grains, which was Rs 385 in 1985-86. Then what will be the consequences? It will be assumed that the Government is giving subsidy of Rs 1050 subsidy per quintal of wheat. There is a need to change the WTO rules but this price mechanism cannot do.

My second point is, Sir, the member countries through process of consultation have the right to scrutinize the food programmes of India or for that matter any country. So, the member countries will invade into India and this have fallout on the price mechanism and in case of any breach the same could be disputed. All these provisions of the agreement clearly suggest that internal policy matters of India will be subject to foreign scrutiny and hence adapt to an erosion of our sovereignty. This is highly objectionable.Sir, it is a matter of grave concern for us that India’s sovereignty will be compromised in that way.

Third point, Sir, the final draft agreed in Bali mandated developing countries to ensure various measures of trade facilities. Now, Sir, it is unfortunate that no cost assessment has been made by the Government about implementing provisions of trade facilities. By providing trade facilitation, imports from rest of the world will flood India, further worsening the already difficult external payment position. This is another area of concern for India.

Finally, in reality this agreement by the BJP Government has eroded the sovereignty of the nation on one hand and put a ceiling on the freedom of future regimes to any such food security programme. The entire money will be cut from the point allocation to health, food and other sectors that will be adjusted with trade facilities agreement.

Therefore Sir, I would appeal to the Hon’ble Commerce Minister to clarify this point in this august House so that the nation can have a clear picture on this issue.