India lashes WTO, defends decision on failed trade deal

NEW DELHI, August 5, 2014 (AFP) – India on Tuesday defended its decision to scuttle a landmark worldwide trade deal, saying it needed to take a tough stand at the WTO to ensure the survival of its impoverished farmers. Trade Minister Nirmala Sitharaman also lashed out at the World Trade Organization, accusing it of foot-dragging on negotiations to give the green light to India’s stockpiling of food.

India’s new right-wing government last week refused to ratify the long-sought global deal on streamlining customs rules, despite WTO members agreeing to the terms of the accord at a meeting in Bali last year.

The deal, the first global reform of trade in years which needs the agreement of the WTO’s 160 members, would add $1 trillion and 21 million jobs to the world economy, according to some estimates.

But India insists that the deal should be concluded as a “package” alongside a permanent agreement on stockpiling food to feed its millions of poor people.

“India stood firm on its demands despite immense pressure,” Sitharaman told parliament as lawmakers thumped their desks in approval.

“The government of India is committed to protecting the interests of our farmers against all odds,” said Sitharaman