Justin Trudeau attends a news conference in Ottawa on July 8.
File image of Canadian PM Justin Trudeau | Bloomberg Photo
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New Delhi: Canada may have voiced concerns over the ongoing farmer protests in India against the central government’s three farm bills, but in the past, it has never left any opportunity to challenge India’s farm subsidies at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

On Tuesday, while addressing members of the Sikh community in Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the situation of Indian farmers agitating against the farm bills is “concerning” and that his country will “be there to defend the rights of peaceful protest”. India, however, rejected the comments as being “ill-informed”.

Though willing to defend India’s protesting farmers, Canada has always been vocal at the WTO against India’s food subsidy programmes for its staple crops.

A Geneva-based trade official said Canada, Brazil and New Zealand were “most vocal challengers” to India exceeding the permitted limit of its rice subsidy in 2018-19.

Canada, along with other developed countries like the US, Japan and Australia, have challenged India at WTO meetings when it sought to defend its agricultural programmes like the minimum support price (MSP) for staple crops such as rice, wheat and pulses.


Also read: Farmers’ protest a big challenge for Modi. Bigger than demonetisation, GST


Canada questioned India’s exceeding food subsidies

Developed countries, including Canada, have been raising the issue of India’s food subsidies at WTO meetings for years. With the adoption of a peace clause in 2013, the pressure intensified.

In July this year, Canada, along with the US, Japan and the European Union had questioned India on exceeding the permitted limits on food subsidies given for rice production — also called de minimis levels under WTO norms — to farmers in 2018-19, official sources told ThePrint. The de minis level is determined as 10 per cent of the value of food production.

“In its responses, India reiterated its compliance with the WTO rules, particularly on the Agreement on Agriculture as well as the Bali Ministerial Decision. It maintained the marketing year 2018-2019 was the only year that it exceeded the de minimis support for rice, which explains why it didn’t notify the public stockholding programme for rice prior to that period,” said the trade official.

In order to continue offering food subsidies to the farmers, India had to invoke the peace clause. The peace clause gives protection to developing countries like India, which run public food stockholding, from being dragged into disputes in case they exceed their de minis level.

India, along with other developing countries like Brazil, China and South Africa, obtained a so-called ‘peace clause’ in 2013 under the WTO during one of its ministerial meetings that was held in Bali, Indonesia.

But even after obtaining the peace clause, India had to fight against the developed countries, including Canada, to continue using it during the 2015 Nairobi ministerial meeting. 

‘Canadians act at behest of their major trade partners’

In July, Canada had registered 25 questions to India with regard to its farm subsidy and also explained the impact such food subsidies will have on global agricultural trade.

Subsequently, in September, a slew of questions were posed to India by Canada and other developed nations regarding its “multiple agriculture policies and transparency issues arising from its new domestic support notifications”, said the above-quoted trade official.

The official added, “A good number of new questions were asked regarding India’s new domestic support notifications, its various support programmes and public stockholding programmes (which are meant to benefit the farmers). Some key questions include the potential impact on the global market of India’s high amount of food stocks, and whether India is breaching its support limit for other farm goods, given India recently notified its excessive de minimis support for rice in 2018-2019.”

From 2015-18, attempts were made by Canada and other developed nations to also question India’s food stocks programme.

In July 2019, several developed countries, including Canada, made an attempt to take India to the WTO dispute settlement body over the MSP issue.

Jayant Dasgupta, former ambassador of India to the WTO, said Canada has repeatedly questioned India’s farm policies.

“It is not in keeping with diplomatic protocol. Canada has questioned India’s farm policies time and again, along with others like the Americans and Australians. Canadians also act at the behest of their major trade partners at the WTO. But as far as their (Canada’s) trade interest goes, they are not large exporters of farm produce, like the Americans or Australians,” he said.


Also read: Shambles over farmers’ protest shows Modi-Shah BJP needs a Punjab tutorial


 

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10 Comments Share Your Views

10 COMMENTS

  1. There is a gap in your understanding of Canada’s objections to the farm subsidies. These are the benefits that enable the agriculture produce to come into the world market at cheaper prices thereby affecting competition. Examples would be free electricity, and the like.
    MSP on the other hand has no direct relevance. It is the price that the Govt pays to buy the produce from the farmers. So if the govt is paying a higher price than what the farmers would have got normally, then it doesn’t enable the farmers to sell in international markets at a reduced price.
    An example of this is the Wheat MSP. The MSP for wheat is Rs 1925 per quintal. So if the international price of wheat is Rs 1500, then it means that the farmer will want to sell entirely at MSP to the Govt instead, because they are not going to get the same price in international market.
    If the MSP is at Rs 1000, then the farmer will try to sell it in the international market to try to get a higher price,. And international trade is not going to lower the prices. In both cases, Canada doesn’t care about the MSP.
    So, please do not take Canada’s opposition out of context to make a point.

  2. Those who are supporting Trudeau’s comments saying that he is merely supporting the farmers’ right to protest peacefully should consider the following:
    1. Even if he is supporting the right to protest, it is still an interference in the internal matters of another sovereign state.
    2. Canada has its own challenges, shortcomings and many instances of government action hurting people. The treatment of indigenous people is one example. Even last year a plan by the Canadian police reportedly had a plan to shoot indigenous people who had a blockade to stop construction of natural gas pipelines (reported in The Guardian). Should the Indian government have expressed it’s concern and the right of the indigenous people to their lands?
    The Trudeau government signed the USMCA (formerly the North American Free Trade Agreement) with US and Mexico, which opened the Canadian dairy market to US producers. This is expected to result in a loss of $100 million Canadian farmers this year and a potential reduction of the homegrown Canadian dairy industry by as much as $240 million (reported by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp). Should the Indian government have expressed concern about the loss of income for Canadian farmers?

    Do people know that the Canadian government has repeatedly challenged India’s farm subsidy (which gives Rs. 6000 per year for farmers or CAD $105/year). That is a modest subsidy which was challenged by one of the wealthiest countries. Canada wants access to Indian markets for their farm products and don’t care about Indian farmers. That’s the long and short of it.

    Once a foreign country steps into domestic issues, for their own local political gains, where does it stop. India can also similarly interfere in Canadian domestic matters. That is not good for either country. Quite apart from this Canadian interference, people should read the Congress party’s 2019 manifesto, where they promised to exactly what the 3 farm bills have done. Now Congress is on the side of the protestors. What a bunch of hypocrites.

  3. The point of debate is not that who are supporting whom or who outsiders are in there in the protest of farmers ? Rather the issue is that nowadays a trend is prevailing to block roads indefinitely in the name of protest & make the life difficult for innocent people. This trend has started from Shaheen Bagh which is not right for the country and should not be tolerated !!!

  4. मुद्दा यह नहीं है कि कौन किसका समर्थन कर रहा है या भीड़ में कौन लोग शामिल हैं ? बल्कि मुद्दा यह है की आजकल एक प्रचलन बन गया है विरोध के नाम पर अनिश्चितकाल के लिए सड़क बंद कर दो और बेकसूर जनता के लिए मुश्किल खड़ी करो । शाहीन बाग़ से यह प्रचलन शुरू हुआ है जो की देश के लिए सही नहीं है और किसी भी कीमत पर बर्दास्त नहीं किया जाना चाहिए ।

  5. The headline is biased. Canadian PM is emphasizing the way in which the protests are being handled. He is not commenting on the policy matter of Government but commenting on the draconian way in which the administration is handling the protests.

  6. U seem to be scared of bjp and usa kamala harries also said exactly the same thing u r trying to earn brownie points why dont u advise govt to walk away from un human rights commision as india is a signatory and after that govt can freak out

  7. Trudeau is defending the rights of the farmers to peaceful protests, and not their demands. What has his defending farmers’ rights to protest has to do with Canada’s being always vocal at the WTO against India’s food subsidy programmes for its staple crops?

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