WTO talks down to the wire, India holds out

Jul 31 2014, 01:08 IST
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The TFA will take effect only if two-thirds of the member countries ratify it by July 31, 2015. The TFA will take effect only if two-thirds of the member countries ratify it by July 31, 2015.
SummaryUS side remains hopeful of a last-minute resolution

Even as Thursday’s deadline for signing the protocol for the trade facilitation agreement (TFA) at the WTO loomed large, India remained obdurate, asserting that the pact — expected to ease customs rules and potentially add $1 trillion to the world economy — could not be a done deal till it saw progress on the food security issue.

Visiting the US commerce secretary Penny Pritzker, however, sounded optimistic about finding a solution to the vexed issue “over the next couple of days”.

Secretary of state John Kerry, before starting for India on Wednesday morning, had expressed the hope that India’s opposition to TFA would wither away, adding that this was a test case for the country’s commitment to advance liberalisation of global trade and investment. Kerry arrived in India in the evening on a three-day visit.

A senior official with India’s commerce ministry told FE: “There is no change in India’s stand. We continue to maintain that the TFA must be implemented only as part of a single undertaking including the permanent solution on food security.”

The TFA will take effect only if two-thirds of the member countries ratify it by July 31, 2015. Breaking the deadlock in the WTO talks was likely to top the agenda for Kerry’s visit, sources said.

India has so far got the support of just a handful of developing countries such as Cuba, Bolivia and Venezuela, but countries such as China and even Pakistan want the implementation of the TFA as per the timelines agreed earlier.

Even as the WTO director general Roberto Azevedo asked the WTO member countries to be available at the global body’s Geneva headquarters to meet at a short notice till the July 31 deadline ends, hectic discussions were held on Wednesday between commerce ministry officials and the Indian delegation in Geneva.

On July 25, India, in its statement before the WTO’s General Council, had suggested that the adoption of the trade facilitation protocol be postponed till a permanent solution on public stockholding for food security is found.

New Delhi also suggested a four-point course of action, including setting up a special session of the Committee on Agriculture to ensure clear-cut procedures, timelines and outcomes, to arrive at a permanent solution by December 31, 2014. It also wanted a similar approach on other elements of the Bali Package, including the LDC issues. New Delhi then sought a review of the progress of these accelerated discussions in October 2014

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