India smokes peace pipe, last-minute deal at World Trade Organisation summit

Written by Surabhi Rastogi | Surabhi | Bali | Updated: Dec 7 2013, 14:27pm hrs
World Trade OrganisationWorld Trade Organisation on Friday evening issued a revised draft of the Bali package
Reconciling diametrically opposite positions, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on Friday evening issued a revised draft of the Bali package that would address India's concerns on food security and also take through US concerns to bring in a trade facilitation agreement.

The draft has proposed an interim solution with a peace clause of four years but during which a permanent mechanism will have to be finalised.

Significantly, it would not stop developing countries from rolling out their own food security programmes as it will include only existing programmes a key concern for India, which is implementing the Food Security Act.

The permanent solution on food security and public stockholding must be acceptable to all members and put in place by the Eleventh Ministerial," the draft notes.

However, developing nations will be bound to notify the WTO if they are in danger of capping the 10% subsidy limit. It also prohibits any market distorting activities, which again will be monitored by the WTO.

At the same time, addressing the major concerns of the US and the EU, the draft text has also called to put in place a trade facilitation (TF) pact over the next two years for which a preparatory committee would be set up.

The TF will put in binding rules to ensure easier movement of goods. A study commissioned by the WTO says these measures will add $1 trillion to the global GDP.

A source associated with the developments said, "The draft is a full package to take care of all three agendas of agriculture, trade facilitation and development." If the package is approved, it will be the first global trade deal in over 12 years and will help restore credibility to the WTO.

The draft now has to be approved by trade ministers of all 159 countries that are members of the WTO. The nations were called for an informal meeting by WTO director general Roberto Azevedo at 8 pm (local time) on Friday after nearly 36 hours of hectic negotiations.

Due to the meeting the closing session of the ministerial summit is likely to be extended.

The ministerial was expected to end by late afternoon on Friday but had to be extended as a consensus remained elusive. Negotiations between India and the US went on till early Friday morning. But India was not satisfied with the compromise offered then. Another meeting with all trade ministers with the WTO chief also did not yield results.

Commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma held two rounds of meetings with Azevedo on Friday to explain Indias stance. Sharma along with most trade ministers has extended their stay in the island to Saturday.

The current Bali package is not balanced. Our proposal is that this conference should give a political direction to the post-Bali process, South African trade minister Rob Davies had said after the meeting.

It is not just India that has issues, there are several African countries with similar concerns, he said on the Bali package.

Nearly 25 countries including Egypt, Brazil and Venezuela had supported India's concerns on food security and called for a review of the original Bali package.