Bali: Overcoming a string of failures over the years, the World Trade Organization (WTO) on Saturday reached a landmark agreement that can help boost global trade by USD 1 trillion, while taking on board concerns of countries like India to protect its food security scheme to provide subsidized grains to the poor.
In the first-ever agreement reached after the launch of the Doha Round of trade talks, Ministers from 159 countries approved the Bali package early on Saturday morning. (Agencies)
After tortuous negotiations in the last four days and a last-minute hiccup from Cuba and three others Latin American countries opposing a deal, the Ministers reached an agreement in discussions that extended beyond the four-day schedule.
"The ninth ministerial conference adopted the full Bali package, these are historic achievements but the race is not over," Indonesian Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan said during the closing session of the WTO ninth ministerial conference.
On Friday, India scored a major victory when WTO agreed to allow countries to provide subsidy on staple food crops without any threat of punitive action.
On the contentious issue of public stock holding of grains for food security purposes, Gita said: "We have negotiated a package for food security that will provide food to millions of poor in the world."
Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma too described the decision as historic for India.
"India has played a major role in the revival and re-energizing the Doha Round of talks. The Bali declaration is a positive step," Sharma added.
On the trade facilitation agreement, Gita said that pact would boost global trade by USD 1 trillion.
"We did it, it is a historic deal, these are historic achievements, but there is still much to do," Gita added.
The WTO has achieved a major breakthrough since 1995, when it was formed.
The deal also keeps alive the possibility of a broader agreement to create a level playing field for rich and poor nations in the future.
WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo thanked host nation Indonesia and member countries for success of the Bali talks.
"We have put the world back into the World Trade Organization," he said, adding, "For the first time in our history, the WTO has truly delivered."
There was not much of hope when the talks started especially after India put up a tough and unrelenting stand on the food security issue and subsidy, almost threatening collapse of the negotiations.
But on Friday, it was agreed that nations such as India would be allowed to fix Minimum Support Price (MSP) for farm produce and also to sell staple grains to the poor at subsidized rates. It was also agreed to permit countries to store foodgrains to meet contingency.
WTO members gave developing nations a temporary dispensation from subsidy limits, shelving the issue for negotiations at a later time.
The talks were threatened at the eleventh hour when Cuba objected to removal of a reference to the decades-long U.S. trade embargo that Cuba wants lifted.
The centre-piece of the agreement reached in Bali was measures to ease barriers to trade by simplifying customs procedures and making them more transparent.
The deal could boost global trade by USD 1 trillion over time and also keeps alive the WTO's broader Doha Round of trade negotiations, sometimes known as the development round because of sweeping changes in regulations, taxes and subsidies that would benefit low income countries.
Azevedo said that the WTO will spend the next year developing a fresh approach for moving forward with the Doha negotiations.
In the first-ever agreement reached after the launch of the Doha Round of trade talks, Ministers from 159 countries approved the Bali package early on Saturday morning.