India may not back global trade protocol due to food concerns

NEW DELHI Wed Jul 16, 2014 2:17pm EDT

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India may not support a protocol key to the implementation of a global trade pact unless progress is made in multilateral talks about food stockpiling in developing countries, the trade ministry said on Wednesday.

WTO member states struck a hard-won deal on trade facilitation at a meeting in Bali last year, but the agreement has run into trouble ahead of a July 31 deadline for the protocol, with India among a group of developing nations angry at rich countries for failing to address their concerns.

India "will find it difficult" to support the protocol unless it is satisfied that adequate emphasis is being placed on negotiations about food security and other issues important to poor countries, the trade ministry said.

"India is deeply disappointed and concerned," the ministry said in a statement that repeated a stance first made at a WTO meeting in Geneva on July 2.

The country's top trade official said on Tuesday that India was not placing a condition for its support of the trade deal.

"No, no. In the trade facilitation agreement we already have become a party. Now it is only a question of the protocol coming into operation," Trade Secretary Rajeev Kher said, when asked whether India was making progress on food security a condition for its support of the pact.

The row over subsidies has raised fears that the first ever global trade agreement under the World Trade Organization will be derailed, affecting efforts to free up to $1 trillion in global trade flows.

The agreement in December aims to speed up trade with faster and more efficient customs procedures, but a deal was only reached after New Delhi extracted promises that its concerns related to food subsidies would be addressed.

India stockpiles food for its poor, putting it at risk of breaking current WTO rules. In Bali, WTO members agreed to give India a pass until 2017, while negotiating a permanent solution.

(Reporting by Manoj Kumar; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Douglas Busvine and Ruth Pitchford)

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