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The government has claimed victory at the World Trade Organization after members agreed to grant full immunity to developing countries against a possible breach of subsidy ceilings.

"...we have been able to secure an outcome that addresses our concerns... We have accomplished this without any concessions compromise or new conditions" commerce and industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman told Parliament. Stating that the "new and unambiguous" decision endorsed by the WTO membership will remain in perpetuity till a solution is found she said it will also give flexibility to countries such as India in continuing their minimum support price policy.

Last year in Bali WTO members including India had agreed to finalize a new formula for calculating domestic support by 2017 and said any breach of the permissible 10% ceiling will not be challenged at the multilateral body during this period. In return they agreed to sign the trade facilitation agreement (TFA) to usher in easier customs rules.

But after taking charge the BJP government refused to sign TFA arguing that it wanted a permanent solution. It however agreed to sign it after the US and others offered additional comfort by extending the four-year peace clause to perpetuity.

"This would do away with any ambiguity on this aspect as well as guard against the possibility of no cover being available after 2017 in case a permanent solution on public stockholding for food security purposes is not arrived at by then" the minister said. At the same time WTO members have agreed to work out a permanent solution by December 2015. While there are fears that India will be asked to undertake additional commitments Sitharaman suggested that this may not be the case.

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Publication:Pakistan & Gulf Economist
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Dec 7, 2014

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