NEW DELHI: India has opposed a proposal that requires countries to notify well in advance any restriction they may impose on exports of food products, saying the move is not practical and undermines the very intent of imposing export restrictions.
India has at times banned exports of food items to keep prices in check when there is shortage in the domestic market. The proposal by Singapore has been made just ahead of the crucial WTO ministerial meeting from December 10-13 in Buenos Aires. “We can’t notify of any export restriction in advance,” a person privy to the development said. “Advance notification undermines the very purpose of such an instrument especially at times of a goods crisis.”
Japan and Israel, too, have demanded an advance notice of 30 days and reasons from those who impose export restraints. India has also imposed minimum export price mostly on essential commodities like onion, wheat, rice, potato and edible oils in the past to discourage exports and augment domestic availability. It has also opposed the requirement that a developing country provide data to justify that it is a net food importer as it reverses the prerequisite for a country to prove it is a net food exporter under the current WTO norms.
Though the WTO prohibits countries from using quantitative measures including export restrictions, they can be used under extremely limited circumstances and that too temporarily and only for essential commodities. This is the second proposal by Singapore seeking to limit countries’ flexibility and control over their own food stocks.
Last year, it floated a paper prohibiting restrictions on export of food stuffs in the name of improving transparency. “Singapore is targeting India on behalf of other countries and trying to make us commit to some kind of disciplines in export restrictions as there are none at present on export taxes or limitations,” said Biswajit Dhar, professor-Centre for Economic Studies and Planning at Jawaharlal Nehru University.