Global Trade Deal Fails as India Resists

A proposed World Trade Organisation (WTO) deal to ease worldwide customs rules collapsed before the deadline for completion after India held out with demands for concessions on agricultural stockpiling.

US secretary of state John Kerry told India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, that India’s refusal to sign a global trade deal sent the wrong signal, and he urged New Delhi to work to resolve the row as soon as possible.

“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,” said a US state department official after Kerry’s meeting with Modi.

Kerry was in New Delhi as part of an annual strategic dialogue to revitalise ties and lay the ground for a visit by Modi to Washington in December. The official described the meeting as “strong and positive” despite the breakdown at the trade talks in Geneva.

Several WTO member states voiced frustration after India’s demands triggered 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, Indonesia, last December, but were unable to overcome last-minute Indian objections and get it into the WTO rule book by a 31 July deadline.

“We have not been able to find a solution that would allow us to bridge that gap,” said WTO director-general Roberto Azevedo shortly before the final deadline for a deal lapsed at midnight.

Most diplomats had expected the pact to be rubber-stamped this week, marking a unique success in the WTO’s 19-year history. Some estimates have suggested the deal would add US$1 trillion and 21m jobs to the world economy.

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