NEW DELHI/GENEVA, (Reu-ters) – The World Trade Organization failed yesterday to reach a deal to standardise customs rules, which would have been the first global trade reform in two decades but was blocked by India’s demands for concessions on agricultural stockpiling.
“We have not been able to find a solution that would allow us to bridge that gap,” WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo told trade diplomats in Geneva just two hours before the final deadline for a deal.
“Of course it is true that everything remains in play until midnight, but at present there is no workable solution on the table, and I have no indication that one will be forthcoming.”
The deadline passed without a breakthrough. WTO ministers had already agreed the global reform of customs procedures known as “trade facilitation” last December, but it needed to be put into the WTO rule book by July 31.
Most diplomats saw that as rubber-stamping 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, so they were shocked when India unveiled its veto.
Trade experts say yesterday’s failure is likely to end the era of trying to cobble together global trade agreements and to accelerate efforts by smaller groups of like-minded nations to liberalise trade among themselves. India has been vocal in opposing such moves, making its veto even more surprising.
“Today’s developments suggest that there is little hope for truly global trade talks to take place,” said Jake Colvin at the National Foreign Trade Council, a leading U.S. business group.
“The vast majority of countries who understand the importance of modernizing trade rules and keeping their promises will have to pick up the pieces and figure out how to move forward.”