After months of disagreements over certain clauses in the World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement, or TFA, India on Thursday announced that it has successfully resolved its differences with the United States, removing a major hurdle in the implementation of the landmark agreement.
“We are extremely happy that India and the US have successfully resolved their differences relating to the issue of public stockholding for food security purposes in the WTO in a manner that addresses our concerns,” Nirmala Sitharaman, India’s commerce and industry minister, said, in a statement released Thursday. “We urge the WTO membership to take this forward in the General Council on behalf of the Ministerial Conference and pave the way to spurring the WTO to more such successes.”
The "breakthrough" was achieved after U.S. President Barack Obama held “extensive discussions” with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Myanmar, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.
"Both countries have reached an understanding on implementation of a December 2013 WTO decision regarding specific food security programs maintained by some developing countries," a statement released by the Office of the United States Trade Representative said. "The bilateral agreement makes clear that a mechanism under which WTO Members will not challenge such food security programs under WTO dispute settlement procedures will remain in place until a permanent solution regarding this issue has been agreed and adopted."
Earlier, the WTO deal had proposed that the food security programs of nations would not be reviewed till 2017.
The TFA, part of a broader reform to boost global trade, was formulated in December 2013 during a WTO conference in Bali, Indonesia. The agreement, through a worldwide reform of duties and tariffs, and a reduction in red tape at international borders, aims to ease trade relations between countries.
The agreement, which is strongly backed by the U.S. and most member nations of the WTO, could add $1 trillion in new trade globally and create 20 million new jobs worldwide, according to some estimates.
The deadline for ratification of the deal was July 31. However, India, backed by Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia, had refused to sign the agreement, citing concerns over clauses limiting government food subsidies and stockpiling of food. India had reportedly alleged that the agreement could hamper its massive $1 trillion food security program.