Double standards in the WTO rules are exposed when India’s subsidies of $12 bn to its 500 mn farmers are considered ‘trade distorting’, while US subsidies of $120 bn to its 2 mn farmers are not. Vandana Shiva
The conflict between “free trade” and food rights came to the fore again at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations in September, when India did not back down from its stance that a permanent solution be found for food security issues before signing the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA).
The TFA is designed to push free trade further, with heavy losses to India’s food security. The US had challenged India at the WTO’s Bali Ministerial in 2013, on the ground that the Food Security Act adopted by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime would increase India’s food subsidies beyond levels allowed by the WTO.
The rules allow subsidies at 10% of the value of agricultural produce. Oddly, the base year for India has been fixed at 1986-88. India, justifiably, is demanding that this date be changed to reflect the reality of food prices today. Double standards in the WTO rules are also exposed when one realises that India’s subsidies of $12 billion to its 500 million farmers are considered “trade distorting”, while U.S. subsidies of $120 billion to its 2 million farmers are not. India’s subsidies are $25 per farmer, while U.S. subsidies amounts to $60,000 per farmer — that’s 2,400 times more than Indian subsidies. Yet the U.S. is threatening India and demanding the removal of support to its small and marginal farmers.
These are not rules of trade, but rules of manipulation written during the Uruguay Round of Trade Negotiations which led to the establishment of the WTO, by agribusiness corporations seeking to profit from India’s large food and agriculture market. The WTO debate on food and agriculture subsidies is actually intended to force India to stop supporting its farmers through procurement at the minimum support price (MSP) so that 1.25 billion Indians, including the 810 million covered by the Food Security Act, become a market for multinational corporations. Vandana Shiva