“Permanent solution” to issue of PSH of foodgrains needed: Swadeshi Jagran Foundation
The SJF letter seeks to request “protection of interest of developing countries” in the proceedings at MC12. It aims to draw the attention of ministers of member countries of WTO towards four important issues — TRIPS waiver on the vaccine, medicines, therapeutics and related technologies for the treatment of Covid-19; permanent solution to the “Peace Clause” in the AoA on PSH for food security; fisheries subsidies; and a temporary moratorium on custom duty on electronic transmission.
The Swadeshi Jagran Foundation (SJF) has asked the World Trade Organization (WTO) for a “permanent solution” to the issue of public stockholding (PSH) of foodgrains. The request has been made by the organization in a letter written by its National Co-Convenor Ashwani Mahajan and members Anil Sharma and S Lingamurty on its behalf. The letter is addressed to the WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
The letter seeks to request “protection of interest of developing countries” in the proceedings at the WTO's 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12). It aims to draw the attention of ministers of member countries of WTO towards four important issues which carry special importance for people of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and developing countries —TRIPS waiver on the vaccine, medicines, therapeutics and related technologies for the treatment of COVID-19; permanent solution to the “Peace Clause” in the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) on PSH for food security; fisheries subsidies; and a temporary moratorium on custom duty on electronic transmission.
According to the letter, the “main culprit” for the world struggling for “equitable access to diagnostics, medicines, vaccine and other treatments” is the TRIPS Agreement made in the beginning of WTO at Marrakesh. Exceptions permitted in the TRIPS Agreement on the issue of public health were ineffective as they were structured with lots of conditions. Whatever small was achieved in the Doha Declaration as TRIPS flexibilities have been made ineffective by developed countries, especially the US, by forcing developing countries as well as the LDCs to incorporate “more restrictive conditions known as TRIPS Plus and Data Exclusivity in FTAs with them.”
India, Africa Group and other supporting countries proposed a TRIPS waiver for vaccines, medicines and consumables for treatment of Covid-19 which was initially opposed totally by the developed countries.
SJF feels that the text circulated for MC12 is “far from useful” for the purpose enshrined in the India-South Africa proposal for TRIPS waiver. The proposal is limited to TRIPS waiver for vaccine only and that too, limited to import and exports of the vaccine and that also with technicalities purposely designed to deny the implementation of TRIPS waiver even for vaccines. SJF has called upon the WTO to ensure that the TRIPS waiver is extended to medicines, therapeutics, diagnostic, disposables and all types of equipment along with vaccines used in the treatment of Covid-19.
Food Security and Farmers’ Survival
SJF says that the WTO negotiations on agriculture remain deadlocked since Doha Declaration in 2001. The US and EU wanted an agreement not only on agriculture but also in other areas such as non-agricultural market access and services. In the 9th MC at Bali in December 2013, a decision on PSH for food security purposes was taken. Members agreed to put in place an interim mechanism and to negotiate an agreement for a permanent solution applicable to all developing countries.
After Bali, says the SJF letter, the first proposal for a permanent solution came from India along with other G-33 countries in July 2014 that essentially demanded to move PSH for food security into the Green Box. But the waiting still continues.
SJF draws attention to the importance of PSH for food security that has been seen in the last two years of the pandemic. Poorer countries are in dire need of affordable food for the survival of their population. SJF appreciates the proposal of the Africa group, G33 and others, strongly supported by India for a permanent solution, “undoing the wrong done at WTO initial agreements,” when the base year was kept at 1986-88 for the purpose of calculation of agriculture subsidies.
There is no justification, says SJF, for allowing more than $300bn of subsidies by the US and objecting to the meagre subsidies given by the Indian government for the food security of people. The letter says that “finding a permanent solution to the issue should be a priority for all in the 12th MC.”
Save Conventional Fisheries and Poor Fishermen
SJF has strongly opposed the developed countries’ suggestion for an exemption for low-income, resource-poor or livelihood fishing or fishing-related activities in developing countries operating within 12 nautical miles, with a limit of 5 years for fishing in the EEZ. Besides, it says, “to safeguard the environment there is (an) urgent need to restrict organized deep-sea fishing by big corporates.”
End Moratorium on Customs on Electronic Transmission
The SJF letter appreciates the proposal from the Government of India “to end (the) moratorium on tariff on import of e-products,” which has been continuing since 1998. The current moratorium on custom duty on electronic transfer is against the interest of developing countries in general and India in particular, feels SJF. This is not only impacting job creation in the electronic sector but also revenue generation. SJF has urged the WTO to ensure the end of “this temporary moratorium on tariff on electronic transmission.”