August 18, 2014 / 9:29 AM / 5 years ago

China hopes WTO can 'resolve differences' and sign deal

A farmer walks through a paddy field at Tannaurah village in the northern Indian state of Punjab August 1, 2014. REUTERS/Ajay Verma

BEIJING (Reuters) - China said on Monday it regretted World Trade Organisation members had failed to reach an agreement on simplifying global customs rules, a breakdown it said could damage multilateral trade.

India last month torpedoed a global deal to standardize and streamline customs regulations, known as “trade facilitation”, after it demanded more freedom to subsidize and stockpile food grains than is allowed by WTO rules.

Many WTO member states, including the United States, voiced frustration after India’s demands led to the collapse of what was the first major global trade reform pact in two decades.

WTO ministers had already agreed to the global reform of customs procedures in Bali last December, but were unable to overcome India’s last-minute objections by the July 31 deadline.

“China hopes all parties can quickly resolve differences and find a way out of the impasse,” Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesman Shen Danyang told reporters at a monthly press briefing, adding it was “worried” about the possible negative impact on multilateral trade and Doha round negotiations, referring to the latest round of talks.

“China ... has called for all related parties to push forward the implementation of the Bali ministerial conference and work out a balanced, practical work plan within this year to lay a foundation for wrapping up the Doha round,” Shen said.

India has said it believed it could convince other members that its need for more leeway on food subsidies was legitimate, and has said a deal could be signed as early as September if its concerns were addressed.

Most diplomats had expected the pact to be rubber-stamped, marking a unique success in the WTO’s 19-year history which, according to some estimates, would add $1 trillion and 21 million jobs to the world economy. India calls these estimates highly exaggerated.

India blocked the text because it wanted more attention paid to its concerns over WTO limits on stockpiling of food which will ultimately hit its subsidized food distribution program, the world’s largest, targeted at nearly 850 million people.

Reporting by Michael Martina and Aileen Wang; Editing by Nick Macfie

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