Author: T S Vishwanath
Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Philippine Statistics Authority.
The most important issue for India will be to drive a consensus for a permanent decision on public stock holding for agricultural products that reflects the demands of a group of developing countries called G-33 with strong interests in food security issues like Philippines and Indonesia besides India.
New Delhi will want member countries of WTO to adopt a mandate on public stock holding that goes beyond the interim solution of a permanent peace clause that was agreed at the Ministerial meeting at Bali, Indonesia in 2013. One element of the currently available permanent peace clause that irks India is the onerous responsibility of complying with existing and additional notification requirements and admitting that the country is exceeding, or is at the risk of exceeding, its ceiling of entitlement to provide product-specific domestic support. India has been strongly advocating the removal of the existing asymmetry in WTO's Agreement on Agriculture where developed countries have far more leeway than developing countries in subsidizing agricultural commodities.
India has, over the last few years, invested a lot of its negotiating energy on this issue and will, therefore, expect some favourable decisions from other member countries at Buenos Aires.
There could, however, be some roadblocks to finding a solution. First, US has been conspicuously absent from any serious negotiations in the run up to Buenos Aires, second EU has been wanting to link a permanent solution with stringent disciplines on domestic support provided by developing countries, including India and third the countries are seeking a commitment that direct or indirect exports of public stockholdings will be prohibited.