At WTO Meet, India Takes Firm Stand Against Thai Envoy’s ‘Offensive’ Comments on Public Stockholding: Sources

Reported By: Anand Narasimhan

Last Updated: February 29, 2024, 12:40 IST

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Delegates attend the 13th WTO ministerial conference in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, February 26, 2024. (Reuters)

Tensions at WTO as Thai Ambassador’s remarks on India’s Public Stockholding stir controversy. India takes firm stance on Public Stockholding policy

Tensions flared during a meeting at the ongoing WTO ministerial as the Thai Ambassador to Geneva, Pimchanok Pitfield made ‘offensive’ remarks about India’s use of Public Stockholding (PSH) for export purposes, according to sources.

India took offence to the tone and manner of the comment made during a meeting at the 13th ministerial conference (MC) of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). “It was the tone used, which was offensive and this remark was followed by members of the Cairns grouping applauding the comment. Bharat took objection to what was said, and the manner, in which it was said,” sources revealed. The Cairns’ agricultural exports account for nearly 30 percent of global agricultural exports.

The Agricultural group, which met on Sunday, had earlier regretted that the WTO has failed to reach any substantive reform outcome in agriculture since the decision at the 10th WTO Ministerial Conference in 2015 to eliminate agricultural export subsidies. Despite its clarification that PSH export is not a standard policy, the matter escalated when India walked out of a meeting involving the Thai official on February 28. Sources confirmed to CNN-News18 that the matter was raised with the Thai ambassador in India although it is unconfirmed if there was an official Demarche.

India has taken a firm stance on the issue, refusing to participate in closed-door meetings with the Thai official until the comments are retracted. There was a 20-minute one-on-one between U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal last evening. Sources say this matter was also raised during the meeting.

India’s farmer and fisherfolk interests are being stressed at the WTO, with the government asserting that food safety and security won’t be compromised. The mention of PSH in the outcome document is deemed non-negotiable by India, with the possibility of the Thai foreign secretary flying to Abu Dhabi on February 29 to address the issue. On Wednesday, Goyal said India is a consensus builder in the WTO by playing a key role in the process but some countries are breaking that.

Read More ‘Our Stand Is Consistent’: Piyush Goyal Says India Is Consensus Builder At WTO, But ‘Certain Nations’ Breaking That

The meeting started on February 26 to discuss issues such as agriculture and fisheries subsidies, dispute settlement and moratorium on customs duty levy on e-commerce trade. “Our stand is consistent… we have to see who are blocking the issues and who is responsible for not letting things of the WTO smoothly… It is proved that India in fact is a consensus builder and we are playing a key role in making consensus …and certain countries are breaking that consensus on certain issues,” Goyal told reporters here.

He also said that India stands on strong principles of fair play, justice at the WTO and wants to ensure that all decisions taken at the multi-lateral body are in the best interests of India’s farmers and fisher-folk. “We strongly demand that those who are blocking various decisions at the WTO should start addressing the concerns of the developing countries like India,” the minister said, adding that the concerns and interest like finding permanent solutions to the public stock holding of food amongst others are also given due importance and addressed speedily.

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