(Dr. krishan Bir Chaudhary)
Undeterred by uncompromising attitude of the USA, EU and other OECD countries, India should take a very firm stand at the Cancun Ministerial. Unless the developed countries bring down the subsidy to zero level, we should not open the market and the tariff should not be reduced.
The phasing out of Quantitative Restrictions should be linked up with that of subsidy. Removal of Quantitative restrictions (Qrs) under the W.T.O. regime allows artificially cheap commodities enter domestic markets and destroy farmers livelihoods and incomes.
Distortions and manipulations in the provisions of AoA and removal of QRs have made the developing countries virtually a dumping ground of agricultural commodities from developed countries. Tariff barrier and removal of quantitative restrictions have resulted in finding markets by the developing countries to export their agricultural commodities extremely difficult. Even their domestic market is getting out of reach for their produces in face of highly subsidized commodities being imported from developed countries.
The developing countries are being barred now from raising domestic support or even have it at all. The provision of “Special Safeguard” available only to a few developed countries under article 5 of AoA should be modified to suit the interest of developing and least developed countries.
Political imperatives whatsoever should never be allowed to imperil the livelihood resources of our people. NDA Govt. at the centre has already gone too far in allowing concessions and thus making Indian agriculture subservient to the interest of super powers.
WTO has badly impacted and shattered the agricultural sector of India. And now as India is to participate in the next round of ministerial at Cancun (Mexico) from 10th to 14th September 2003, it is pertinent to find out whether the Cancun ministerial hold any promise for India and other developing countries or will it also go the same way as the previous meets of WTO. Factual evaluation shows that commitments made during the formative phase of WTO and afterwards remain not only largely unfulfilled but have also been grossly distorted in favour of developed countries.
Ironically, the Govt. of India did not care to invite Farm Leaders for a realistic appraisal of the impact of WTO on the agricultural sector of the country. Therefore, the outcome of the Cancun meet is a foregone conclusion. Indian agriculture is passing through a phase of deep crisis and may end in total collapse if the Indian Govt. continues to make further concession to developed countries.
Ever growing subsidy the developed countries are giving to their farm sector is quite illustrative in this respect. Taking the period of 1986-88 into account, the developed countries were under obligation to reduce their domestic support by 20%, the average annual since 1986-88.
But on the contrary the total domestic support according to OECD data, the PSE (Producer Subsidy Equivalent) of all developed countries rose significantly. US 247 billion dollar in the same period (1986-88) rose to US 274 billion dollar in 1998. In the EC over the same period, US 99.6 billion dollar grew to 129.8 billion dollar and in the USA from US 41.4 billion dollar to 46.9 billion dollar.
As per comprehensive calculation of OECD, the total domestic support estimate of 24 OECD countries rose form US 276 billion dollar (Annual average base period of 1986-88) to 326 billion dollar in 1999. As of now, OECD countries are giving one billion dollar as domestic support per day.
It resulted in glaring imbalance in domestic support between developed and developing countries. Under the influence of World Bank, IMF and WTO, the commitments made in AoA have been so twisted as to make it obligatory upon the developing countries to reduce subsidy.
IPR Laws have been distorted by WTO to suit developed countries which resulted in exploitation of Patent Laws by a very few. This apart the TRIPS gave rise to the phenomena of Biopiracy. Virtually a satellite of big powers, the performance of WTO right from its formation has been quite enigmatical.
Agriculture will always remain the mainstay of Indian economy. It is now highly imperative to recast our policies with respect to WTO otherwise retriecable from economic subjugation will become too difficult if we fail to assert our position in the cancun ministerial.
(Editorial : Farmers' Forum Magazine)