The Bali agreement which gave weight to the existence of the World Trade Organisation was finally passed and sanctioned by 159 member states last week. Although India adamantly held fort over her stance on food subsidies opposing a majority of nations, the Bali agreement which unanimously agrees to lower trade barriers and augment cross border trade and commerce was passed – by one estimate, cutting customs red tape could raise annual global output by US$400 billion, with much of the gain flowing to developing economies.. The Doha round of talks has lasted a decade, and had been left for dead on at least two occasions This being the first agreement since its formation in 1995, leads credence to the fact that decisions in a democracy do take time.
While China held sway with more developed nations on its opinion on food subsidies, India coerced lesser-developed nations to fight for food rations for her poor. As the nation with the worlds largest population under the poverty line, India wasn’t going to concede easily. Industry and Commerce minister Anand Sharma and his band of advisors, held negotiations late into the night, fortifying India’s strength amongst world leaders. – In effect, India’s WTO triumph speaks to its improved bargaining power. The WTO victory is by no means a panacea to India’s food provision problems — something the current UPA coalition government has tried to combat with a slew of populist measures, Ankit Panda of the Diplomat wrote.
In contrast, China which joined the WTO a tad later than India in 2001, has abolished, revised and adopted more than 3,000 laws, regulations and department rules to fulfill its commitment to the WTO, and further opened its economy to the outside world.
India recently took steps to legislate a “right to food” for around 800 million of its 1.2 billion citizens — entitling them to five kilograms of rice, wheat or millet per person per month at below-market prices. . Its grain subsidy programs have been a near-constant since independence and continue to be emphasized by the incumbent Congress Party-led government. India’s National Food Security Act was signed into law in September 2013 and all but guaranteed that Indian negotiators would not concede on the subsidy issue at multilateral trade talks.
India’s opinion on food subsidies comes with both her pros and cons – while it will enable the ruling Indian Congress party to uphold her National Food Security Act and protect her population from starvation, it also breeds complacency in India’s food grain supply chain which has often been criticized. Heaps of decaying food grains which didn’t reach the end user but attracted maggots in mis managed godowns are enough to scream foul play and shout bureaucracy. Yet which one is it, does India have enough food grains to feed her people but lacks the logistics to do so, are her citizens getting the full benefit of the subsidies, or are American firms just keen to get a pie of the Indian agricultural segment for material gain, or can she ever be the self sufficient state her forefathers had deemed her to be during the height of the green revolution?
It’s a tough battle, but its also Inchin Closers opinion that if China can manage to pull her people out of a drought and from starvation and move towards eliminating food subsidies within a man’s lifetime, so should India who rose from a considerably more affluent background.