"For us the priority is to have a permanent solution on public stockholding which is better than the peace clause," Prabhu said after a meeting with European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, where he also flagged concerns over attempts by "some countries" to hit at the World Trade Organization (WTO) as the forum for multilateral dialogue.
The meeting comes a day before the ministerial meeting formally opens in the Argentinian capital and the Indian team was busy stitching coalitions, which have been fragile in the past. Yet, Prabhu is making attempts having held talks with South African trade minister Rob Davies, members of the G-33 coalition including Indonesia, the Philippines and China and is meeting around 20 trade ministers from developing countries later on Sunday. A bilateral meeting with China is also planned over the next couple of days.
"There are many issues but there is little consensus. The one issue on which time is ripe for a decision is public stockholding," Davies said after meeting Prabhu.
The main thrust of these meetings is to ensure that the new formula for public stockholding of foodgrains, which will give the flexibility to the government to continue with the minimum support price regime in its current form without fear of breaching any limit, does not come with onerous conditions. For instance, the current scheme allows for going past the cap of 10% of the value of production only if all subsid levels are notified, something that only eight of the 160-odd WTO members have done.
Similarly, there are demands that the current regime should be allowed to be extended to new schemes that were not in place in December 2013, when the decision was taken in Bali. The ministerial meeting has to decide on the issue here but developed countries are looking to seek a postponement so that the can use it to get a better deal on some other issue.
During the meeting with Prabhu, Malmstrom flagged the need to start negotiations on e-commerce, with the minister responding b saying that the time was not ripe and the current mechanism of discussions at the WTO headquarters should continue.
The minister also demanded sharp reduction in subsidies to farmers in the US, EU and Japan, arguing that it was impacting competitiveness of exports from other countries.