India-U.S. deal revives WTO and hope of world trade reform

Thu Nov 13, 2014 11:54am EST
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By Manoj Kumar, Krista Hughes and Tom Miles

NEW DELHI/WASHINGTON/GENEVA (Reuters) - India and the United States settled a dispute on Thursday that had paralyzed the World Trade Organization and risked derailing a $1 trillion package of reforms of global customs procedures.

The deal, which needs to be backed by all 160 WTO members, has resurrected hopes that the trade body can now push through those reforms, opening the way up for further negotiations.

India had plunged the WTO into the deepest crisis in its 20-year history in July by vetoing a deal on streamlined customs rules due to a lack of progress on its demands to be allowed to stockpile food without observing the usual WTO rules on agricultural subsidies.

That put the WTO's future in doubt just months after it appeared to have overcome decades of stalemate on the issue at a meeting in Bali in Indonesia.

"This breakthrough represents a significant step in efforts to get the Bali package and the multilateral trading system back on track," WTO director general Roberto Azevedo said.

"Implementation of all aspects of the Bali package would be a major boost to the WTO, enhancing our ability to deliver beneficial outcomes to all our members."

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), which has said streamlining customs procedures could add $1 trillion and 21 million jobs to the world economy, said the breakthrough would open the door to new trade talks.

"Today's breakthrough is a real victory for all of us: governments, consumers and business," said ICC Secretary General John Danilovich.   Continued...

Female labourers collect wheat at a warehouse of Punjab State Civil Supplies Corporation Limited on the outskirts of the northern Indian city of Amritsar in this March 14, 2013 file photo.   REUTERS/Munish Sharma