News / Asia

As WTO Deal Teeters, Some Blame Indian Electioneering

WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo on sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Ministerial Meeting, Bali, Oct. 5, 2013.WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo on sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Ministerial Meeting, Bali, Oct. 5, 2013.
x
WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo on sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Ministerial Meeting, Bali, Oct. 5, 2013.
WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo on sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Ministerial Meeting, Bali, Oct. 5, 2013.
Reuters
India may hold the key to the credibility of the World Trade Organization and to a trillion-dollar trade deal that apparently was derailed this week, diplomats in Geneva said on Tuesday.
 
WTO chief Roberto Azevedo said negotiations by ambassadors in Geneva had gone as far as they could. Specific difficulties and last-minute backtracking now can only be overcome by trade ministers at a biennial meeting on Dec 3-6, he said.
 
"If we are to get this deal over the line, it will need political engagement and political will," Azevedo told a meeting of WTO ambassadors.
 
U.S. Ambassador Michael Punke said that at 10 p.m. on Sunday he had been hopeful the WTO would clinch the first worldwide trade deal in its 18-year history. But last-minute problems arose that lasted until breakfast on Monday.
 
"By 7 a.m. Monday morning, it appeared that the deal was no more," Punke said, according to a transcript of his remarks at the meeting. "We're skeptical that those who appear to be refusing to reach agreement can now be convinced by another long night of negotiation."
 
Several diplomats leaving the meeting, asked who was to blame, mentioned India without being prompted. Others also named Venezuela, Bolivia and Cuba, but their objections had been maintained throughout. India had earlier won a large concession on agriculture but was said to suddenly turn into an obstacle, apparently to gain more in agriculture.
 
The bulk of the trade deal, supposedly the "low-hanging fruit" of the moribund Doha round of talks, is about streamlining customs procedures globally. But much of the negotiating time has been devoted to India's demand.
 
In a breakthrough the United States initially opposed, India won to the right to subsidize food and stockpile it in the name of food security, breaking the usual WTO rules on food subsidies.
 
Fulfilling an election promise made in 2009, India's coalition government this year expanded a welfare program to give ultra-cheap food to about 800 million people. The Congress Party, which leads the government, has been stung by polls showing it may lose ground in the next general election.
 
Sinking ship
 
Diplomats at the WTO said they were not sure if India — and the other holdouts — wanted more concessions, were bent on preventing a deal or just wanted a chance for their ministers to make grandstanding demands in Bali.
 
"Some members just want this ship to sink. It's better that we fail in Geneva, and then the ministers won't have to fail," one ambassador said as he left the meeting.
 
Punke told the meeting that the "intransigent few" should not be rewarded with more concessions. Both he and India's ambassador to the WTO declined to comment after the meeting.
 
Several diplomats pointed out the risks in India's apparent tactics. The draft agreement protects India against a slew of trade disputes that could result in billions of dollars in trade sanctions. Under a compromise in the Bali text, India's laws would not be challenged for four years.
 
The Indian food-security law raises spending on food subsidies 45 percent, to about $21 billion, up from about $14.4 billion in the current fiscal year. If the Bali deal fails, the additional subsidy would be illegal under existing WTO rules.
 
When it meets on Thursday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's cabinet is expected to mandate the negotiators to seek a deal in Bali that ensures India can run the food-subsidy program without many restrictions, a senior official at India's trade ministry said.
 
The official, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue, said India was making all-out efforts to ensure a deal at Bali. He hinted that India was willing to cut import duty on some farm and industrial goods to ensure the deal, but gave no more details.
 
The International Chamber of Commerce says the Bali deal would add $960 billion to the world economy and create 21 million jobs, 18 million of them in developing countries.

You May Like

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid