Food ministry to set up WTO cell

Decision comes after absence of proper mechanism to assess international policy trends.


Peer Muhammad February 09, 2016
PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD: In a bid to be more in sync with international standards, the Ministry of National Food Security and Research is planning to establish a special World Trade Organization (WTO) cell.

A senior officer in the ministry shared that a lack of a specialised WTO cell in the ministry has resulted in the absence of a proper mechanism to assess international pricing and policies trends pertaining to agriculture commodities.

The officer explained that the WTO has several agriculture specific polices therefore, there needs to be a unit that will look into the organisation’s guidelines based on scientific and technical data protecting national interest.

However, he added that despite the absence of such a cell, the ministry successfully presented its case at the WTO conference held in Nairobi in December last year and foiled attempts of regional countries to allow the public stockholdings of agriculture commodities. Such a step would have hurt the interest of Pakistani farmers because they are not supported in the same way as their international counterparts.

Certain regional countries, particularly India lobbied at the WTO meeting to allow for the public stockholdings of agriculture commodities. But, he said, the WTO put off the matter till its next meeting to be held in 2017 on the stance taken by Pakistan and some like-minded countries.

“We felt the need of a special WTO cell since it will holistically work on the policy issues and frameworks keeping in view international trends on the agriculture commodities prices and production,” said the officer.

Initially, the ministry itself will financially support the special cell and next year a budget under the Public Sector Development Programme will be allocated. However, the officer opined that no financial and technical assistance will be availed from any international agency to avoid any influence on policies pertaining to the WTO.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 10th, 2016.

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