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With less than 24 hours to go before a formal announcement on Friday, it became a competition of sorts between India and the United States on who would blink first and it was left to WTO director general Roberto Azevedo to thrash out a compromise. Reaching a consensus at Bali is crucial to take forward the long-pending agenda of the Doha Round of global trade talks as the 9th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) is set to conclude on Friday.
Late Thursday night, Azevedo along with Indonesian trade minister Gita Wirjawan held an hour long meeting with Indias commerce minister Anand Sharma and US Trade Representative Michael Froman to make the two sides reach an accord.
These are interesting times but I stand by what I said, Sharma said. The minister is likely to have discussed Indias stance with New Delhi.
At about 12:00 am (IST), Indias ambassador and permanent representative to the WTO, Jayant Dasgupta met the WTO DG alone. At present, there is no clarity on further negotiations.
Before that Sharma met the WTO DG for one and a half
ours in the evening but stuck to his position that India would first discuss food security before finalising the Bali package. The WTO chief was keen to reach an early harvest.
Highly placed sources said that possible options to accommodate Indias demands would be to either revise the date at which food prices are calculated or to include a commitment for a permanent solution.
Earlier in the day, India had shown willingness to agree on eight of the 10 draft texts but may want them back at the drafting table in Geneva on the contentious issues of trade facilitation and food subsidy.
India has endorsed eight of the 10 draft texts. This is just to underscore that India is as much committed as any other nation to have a successful outcome in Bali. But at the same time there are issues on trade facilitation, commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma told a specially convened press conference to clarify Indias stand. But sources indicated the United States is unwilling to postpone signing of the trade facilitation (TF) pact. The European Union too is keen to sign the TF pact and has indicated it is willing to concede on food security.
A senior Indian official explained that eight of the draft WTO texts are fully acceptable, the first section of the trade