Thursday, November 13, 2014

WTO breakthrough with U.S.-India agreement

The negotiations for a new world trade deal got a major boost today when India and the United States reached agreement on an agricultural issue.

India was the holdout when all others seemed poised to sign a deal last year that was hailed as a chance to give the global economy a $1-trillion boost.

The deal aims to reduce customs and red tape.

It’s not clear whether the deal includes a long list of other agreements reached during more than a decade of negotiations, agreements such as giving WTO teeth to voluntary guidelines for food aid and on reducing tariffs.

But the U.S. negotiators say the WTO deal is now ready to be signed by member countries. It requires unanimous consent.

The issue for India was its ability to set a floor price for grain crops raised by hundreds of millions of poor farmers and stockpiling when it needed to buy crops to maintain the floor prices.

The stockpiles were either released to feed poor people or exported. India is one of the world’s major grain exporters and there have been complaints that it’s policies are not fair trade.

India and the U.S. did not announce details of their new deal, but India had objected to a four-year limit on a so-called "peace clause" that protected developing nations from being punished if they breached the WTO's cap on food subsidies.