WTO in ‘crisis’ as Azevedo puts members on alert

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on July 29, 2014

No consensus on trade facilitation, hectic activities expected in Geneva in next few hours

World Trade Organisation Director General Roberto Azevedo on Tuesday asked all member countries to be available on call over the next two days as no consensus emerged on a trade facilitation deal.

The WTO is in “crisis’’ as India has refused to support a deal on trade facilitation, which members agreed to in the trade ministers meeting in Bali last December, unless a ‘permanent solution’ to food security issues is in place. The trade facilitation pact is to be ratified by July 31.

“The DG stressed that there are less than 48 hours to resolve the crisis and that all WTO Members should be on call to meet on short notice,” WTO spokesperson Keith Rockwell told BusinessLine.

Permanent solution

New Delhi wants members to agree to a permanent solution which would ensure that there would be no action against it for subsidising its food security programmes even if it breaches the existing ceiling (fixed at 10 per cent of agricultural production).

India’s concerns

In the Bali Ministerial, India was given a temporary reprieve against legal action under a ‘peace clause’, which it now feels does not give it adequate protection as it is riddled with conditions. It was promised that a ‘permanent solution’ would be in place by 2017, but New Delhi has said that it may not get it at all if it waits that long.

The DG met coordinators from 15 groups, representing a cross-section of WTO membership, hoping to reach a solution.

“The impasse on the Bali issues has raised deep concerns among WTO members on the future of Doha Round negotiations of which the 10 Bali agreements are a part. The DG briefed the coordinators on the state of play and outlined the steps he has taken so far and the actions he plans to take in the coming hours,” Rockwell said.

If the July 31 time-line lapses, the negotiations on Bali, and other aspects of the Doha Development Round (the actual round that was launched in 2001), will have to start anew.

India has also said that the package of concessions for Least Developed Countries, which was also agreed to in Bali, should be implemented together with the Trade Facilitation agreement.

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Published on July 29, 2014
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