WTO fails to agree key trade deal over India threats

August 01, 2014 - 1:34:09 am
Indian Minister of State for Commerce and Industry (Independent Charge), Finance and Corporate Affairs Nirmala Sitharaman (left) with US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker in New Delhi yesterday.

GENEVA: The World Trade Organisation yesterday said its 160 members had failed to agree a landmark global customs pact in a move the US said left the body on “uncertain new ground”.

“We have not been able to find a solution that would allow us to bridge the gap,” WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo said in a statement after the passing of a July 31 deadline for the deal.

A draft of the so-called Trade Facilitation Agreement, which would streamline global customs procedures, was agreed at a Bali conference last December and was meant to be finalised this month.

But rifts between members, particularly over demands from India that the world body gives the green light to the developing power’s stockpiling of food, had threatened to scuttle the long-sought deal. India has demanded the deal be accompanied by a parallel agreement giving it more freedom to subsidise and stockpile food grains than currently allowed under WTO rules.

Azevedo urged members “to reflect long and hard on the ramifications of this setback”. 

US Ambassador to WTO, Michael Punke, said the failure to agree a deal “has put this institution on very uncertain new ground. We are obviously sad and disappointed that a very small handful of countries were unwilling to keep their commitments from the December conference in Bali,” he said after the meeting in Geneva.

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