WTO: First trade deal in its history clinched

The World Trade Organization adopted the first worldwide trade reform in its history on 27 November 2014, after years of stalemate, months of deadlock and a final day’s delay following an eleventh-hour objection.

The agreement means the WTO will introduce new standards for customs checks and border procedures. Proponents say streamlining the flow of trade will add as much as $1 trillion and 21 million jobs to the world economy.

The agreement could substantially reduce transaction times and costs and would unlock new opportunities for both rich and poor countries.

Still, the agreement is just a fraction of the original Doha Round of trade talks begun in 2001, which eventually proved impossible to agree on. The WTO cut back its ambitions and aimed for a much smaller deal.

Even that was blocked by a four-month standoff caused by India, which had vetoed adoption of the reform package.

India demanded more attention be given to its plans to stockpile subsidised food, in breach of the ‘usual rules. A compromise on wording reached by the USA and Indian governments broke the deadlock.

The passage is widely seen as opening up progress towards further global negotiations, the content of which is due be laid down by July 2015. That should reassure smaller nations in the 160-member WTO. Many had feared India’s tough stance would prompt the United States and the European Union to turn their backs on the WTO and concentrate on smaller trading clubs instead, ending hopes of trade reforms benefiting all.

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