India, Egypt, Sri Lanka withhold support from WTO’s food deals

Only India, Egypt, and Sri Lanka withdrew support from the World Trade Organization (WTO) on Monday as members attempted to reach deals on food security to alleviate restricted supplies and drastically higher prices exacerbated by the Ukraine conflict.

At a crucial gathering of trade ministers this week in Geneva, the 164-member trade group hopes to clinch two agreements on methods to relieve a food crisis that threatens the world’s poorest and most vulnerable countries.

A declaration to keep markets open, not restrict exports, and be more transparent would be one example. The other option would be to make a legally enforceable resolution not to slash exports to the World Food Programme (WFP), which works to alleviate hunger in areas affected by conflicts, natural disasters, and climate change.

According to the International Monetary Fund, around 30 nations, including India, have imposed export restrictions on food, energy, and other commodities.

With the exception of Egypt, India, and Sri Lanka, WTO members voiced wide approval for both texts, according to a WTO spokeswoman. Tanzania, which had previously expressed reservations about the texts, has now chosen to support them, according to the spokeswoman.

Egypt and Sri Lanka, both net food importers, seek to be acknowledged as having a limited potential to export food.

India, which has a history of opposing multilateral trade accords, wants the World Trade Organization to enable poor nations to keep food reserves without suffering fines for violating farm assistance regulations. Members of the WTO agreed to such a shield in 2013, but only for a limited time.

The “topmost priority” for the WTO summit, according to Indian Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal.

On Monday, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development urged WTO members to desist from imposing export restrictions on vital goods to vulnerable countries and the World Food Programme.

The situation is particularly dire in Africa, where 80 percent of its food and 92 percent of its cereals will be imported by 2020.

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