India is willing to sign a global trade deal, which it has torpedoed, if other World Trade Organization members can agree to its parallel demand for concessions on stockpiling food, senior officials in New Delhi said on Friday.
The deadline to sign the WTO pact to ease worldwide customs rules lapsed at midnight in Geneva on Thursday after India demanded that the group also finalise an agreement giving it more freedom to subsidise and stockpile food grains than is allowed by WTO rules.
It was not immediately clear if the latest comments by Indian officials would open a window for the deal to be resurrected.
In Geneva, a trade diplomat from a developing nation said: "The trust that countries have in what India says is going to be significantly diminished."
The officials in New Delhi said the deal could be signed as early as September.
"It is ridiculous to say the Bali deal is dead," said a senior official at the trade ministry, referring to the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) pact that was agreed on the Indonesian island of Bali last year.
"We are totally committed to the TFA, and only asking for an agreement on food security," said the official, who cannot be identified under briefing rules.
Another trade official said: "We expect that the (WTO) director general will call a meeting in September and we are ready to sign the deal in September itself, provided TFA and food security issues are passed together. We are quite hopeful for the deal."
DAMAGING INDIA'S IMAGE?
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who was on a visit to India, told Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier on Friday that India's refusal to sign the trade deal had undermined the country's image.
"Failure to sign the Trade Facilitation Agreement sent a confusing signal and undermined the very image Prime Minister Modi is trying to send about India," a U.S. State Department official told reporters after Kerry's meeting with Modi.
Several WTO member states voiced frustration after India's demands led to the collapse of the first major global trade reform pact in two decades.
WTO ministers had already agreed the global reform of customs procedures known as "trade facilitation" in Bali last December, but were unable to overcome last-minute Indian objections and get it into the WTO rule book by a July 31 deadline.
India has insisted that, in exchange for signing the trade facilitation agreement, it must see more progress on the parallel pact.