Bali witnessed a meeting of minds and WTO members managed to agree on certain items of the vast agenda which was on the table. The relaxation in respect of public stock-holding of food grains for food security by members, trade facilitation and Preferential Rules of Origin for LDCs are some of the highlights.
Agreement on public stock holding for food security
One of the most publicised debates was on India’s food security programme. The draft agreement, envisages an interim mechanism to allow relief to developing countries to continue with their existing policies till the final solution is reached for adoption at the 11th ministerial conference. It has been hailed as a victory. However, the agreement imposes certain conditions. On compliance with these, other members shall refrain from challenging through the WTO, compliance of the developing country (member) with its obligations under Articles 6.3 and 7.2 (b) of the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA).
Benefit under this agreement is available only when the member notifies that it is exceeding or is at the risk of exceeding the Aggregate Measure of Support under AoA. It has to provide details of staple food crop covered, name of the food security programme, release of stock, statistics on opening balance, purchase, purchase price, total imports etc for each staple crop. The member is also expected to assure that stocks procured under such programmes do not distort trade or adversely affect the food security of other members.
The acceptance of protocol for trade facilitation is expected to be completed by 31-7-2015. The agreement will enjoin members to publish information regarding import export procedures, administration of tariff quotas etc and also make them available on internet as far as possible. It also seeks to provide for consultation with traders before amendment or enforcement of laws relating to movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit. Provisions on reduction of fees for enquiries, release of detained goods prior to final determination, post-clearance audit measures, authorised operators, expedited release of goods entered through air cargo facilities to persons that apply for such treatment, border cooperation and uniform documentation are also part of this facilitation.