WTO clinches first global trade deal in its history

Thu Nov 27, 2014 12:25pm EST
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By Tom Miles

GENEVA (Reuters) - The World Trade Organization adopted the first worldwide trade reform in its history on Thursday, after years of stalemate, months of deadlock and a final day's delay following an eleventh-hour objection.

The agreement means the WTO will introduce new standards for customs checks and border procedures. Proponents say streamlining the flow of trade will add as much as $1 trillion and 21 million jobs to the world economy.

"We have put our negotiations back on track," WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo told a news conference held after trade diplomats applauded the end of their 19-year wait for a deal.

However, he said WTO members needed to find a way to speed up negotiations in the future. "We cannot wait another 17 or 18 years to deliver again," he said.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said the agreement could substantially reduce transaction times and costs and would unlock new opportunities for both rich and poor countries.

He said it was a "particularly important win for small and medium-sized businesses in all countries".

Still, the agreement is just a fraction of the original Doha Round of trade talks begun in 2001, which eventually proved impossible to agree on. The WTO cut back its ambitions and aimed for a much smaller deal.

Even that was blocked by a four-month standoff caused by India, which had vetoed adoption of the reform package as the original deadline passed at midnight on July 31.   Continued...

World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Roberto Azevedo (R) gestures before a special meeting of the General Council Preparatory Committee on Trade Facilitation at the WTO headquarters in Geneva November 27, 2014. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse