The World Trade Organization (WTO) on Thursday announced the adoption of a historic trade deal, which, according to some estimates, could add nearly $1 trillion annually to global trade. The Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), which is the WTO’s first-ever multilateral accord, was approved by its 160 member nations in Geneva after months of deadlock, according to a statement released by WTO.
“This is a very important moment for the WTO,” Roberto Azevedo, the WTO Director-General said, at a press conference on Thursday. “This clears the path for the Trade Facilitation Agreement to be implemented and come into force -- with all the well-documented economic benefits that this will bring for developed and developing countries alike.”
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.
However, the deal had remained stuck in limbo after disagreements between the U.S. and India over clauses related to public stockpiling of subsidized food. The impasse was broken earlier in November after the two countries resolved their differences over a peace clause that protects public stockpiling programs until a permanent solution is reached.
“Members shall make all efforts to negotiate a permanent solution by 31 December 2015. This is an advance on the original target date, which was the 11th Ministerial Conference in 2017,” Azevedo said on Thursday.
U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, who recently concluded talks with the Indian government, also welcomed the announcement, according to media reports.
“I am pleased that the United States was able to work with India and other WTO members to find an approach that preserved the letter and spirit of the package of decisions reached at last year's Bali Ministerial Conference,” Froman reportedly said. “It's a perfect example of how breaking down barriers to trade can unlock new opportunities for developed and developing countries alike.”
Cecilia Malmstrom, the European Commissioner for Trade, also said that the adoption of the TFA is “good news for trade, for economic growth, and for development.”
“The EU remains a strong believer in the benefits of the multilateral trading system and considers the conclusion of the DDA (Doha Development Agenda) a strategic priority,” she said, in a statement released Thursday, referring to the original round of trade negotiations that began in 2001.