The saga of the G33 food security proposal in the WTO negotiations is a fascinating tale of law and politics. India has been a leader of this proposal, which would be a good start in bringing WTO norms more fully into alignment with the right to food in international law. Not surprisingly the proposal has been adamantly opposed by the usual agribusiness interests, which seem to have completely captured that level of US officials to whom the WTO file (which Obama obviously doesn't view as top priortity) has been given over.
How then for DG Azevedo and his group of insiders to bring about an agreement for Bali, with Members at loggerheads over food security? India was quickly perceived as the key. Playing judge, jury and executioner, Azevedo tells the Indians that their food security bill is in violation of the Agreement on Agriculture. Never mind compromising the independence of the judicial branch of the WTO (I've previously blogged on that aspect of this).
You would think that this would make India even more determined to get flexibilities in a food security deal. But think harder. Now India was being told that if it didn't get a deal that protected its law, it was likely to be targeted in dispute settlement. And that meant that India could basically be forced to take a deal that didn't really address the issues of principle that were uniting the G33, as long as it looked like it kept the Indian anti-hunger law out of the DSB. One could thus divide the G33, hoisting India on its own petard, as it were.
And that's just about what happened a couple of days ago. India showed signs of caving on food security, accepting a deal that offers little more than a 4 year peace clause, and maybe not even that.The developed countries would have shown themselves as capable of gaming the south as in the bad old Green Room days.
After all, what is four years? Take the time involved in sheperding a case against India's law through the DS system, including panel, AB, 21.5 panel plus AB review of that, then reasonable period of time to comply-aren't we pretty well up to 4 years? In other words, India would be given exactly nothing!
But an article in the Business Standard today suggests that India may have cottoned on to this game.bit.ly/1dktcLC India is looking more closely at the existing flexibilities in the Agreement on Agriculture as a means of defending its law. In other words taking its chances with the DS system, knowing that the worst case outcome is that it will end up in four years time at exactly the same place as if it accepted a peace clause. And of course India may win, particularly if it effectively argues that WTO law must be interpreted in light of the right to food in the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and related provisions in other international human rights instruments.
Now India should feel free to walk away from a phoney deal on food security, and put its foot down with its concerns about the gap between commitments and capacities in trade facilitation.