NEW DELHI: India has hit out at Canada for its stance against Indian farmers at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and said the issue of farmers’ protests was being used for political expediency by Canada.
Sources pointed out that Canada is one of the most strident critics of India’s Minimum Support Price (MSP) and other agriculture policies at the WTO, and often questions India’s domestic agriculture measures that are meant to provide food and livelihood security to the country’s large agrarian population.
“The recent comments by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau regarding the on-going farmers’ protests in India are not just unwarranted and ill-informed but also at odds with Canada’s aggressive posture at the WTO towards India’s agricultural support to its farmers,” a source said.
Developing countries, including India, have been proponents for reforming the WTO’s Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) by eliminating the existing distortions. One of the main demands has been the elimination of the most trade-distorting form of subsidies known as FBT-AMS subsidies, which are available to only 32 out of the 164 members of the WTO. However, due to opposition by the beneficiaries of FBT-AMS entitlements, WTO members have failed to reach consensus on eliminating the existing imbalances in the AoA.
Source said that in a worrying development in recent years,there has been a narrative-push by some WTO members (notably the Cairns Group including Canada as well as the United States and European Union) which attempts to pin the blame for the growth in global levels of trade-distorting domestic support in agriculture on large developing countries such as China, India and Indonesia.
Sources said the recent farm legislations enacted by India would have actually served to allay many of the concerns raised by Canada and other members regarding India’s agriculture policies.
“In view of this, it is surprising to note that Canada is making unwarranted statements supporting domestic protests in India against these farm Acts. The duplicity in the stand taken by Canada at the World Trade Organisation, and the position voiced by its leaders recently is a clear indication that this issue is being used for reasons of political expediency by Canada,” said the source.
Sources said the nature and content of the questions posed by Canada to India regarding India’s agriculture policies, and the overall narrative that it pushes in agriculture negotiations at the WTO, are evidence of the fact that Canada has scarce interest in the genuine well-being of Indian farmers and agriculture producers. On the contrary, Canada, along with other agriculture exporters seeks to further restrict the policy space available to countries like India to support their domestic farmers, in the interest of boosting their own potential exports to India, the sources pointed out.