India, U.S. reach agreement on public stock
November 19, 2014
The United States and India have reached agreement on developing countries' public stockholding of food and the World Trade Organization Trade Facilitation Agreement — also known as the Bali agreement — will be able to move forward, Trade Representative Michael Froman announced late Wednesday.
In a fact sheet, USTR 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. It also sets out elements for an intensified program of work and negotiations to arrive at such a permanent solution."
In a call to reporters today, Froman said the agreement resolves "any ambiguity on the peace clause" on the public stockholding issue.
India had said it would not agree to the Bali accord until the public stockholding issue was resolved permanently. India's agreement stopped the approval of the Bali agreement and in reality all action on the Doha round in the WTO, because the WTO requires consensus of all member states on agreements.
A USTR official also said "there will be concerted efforts to negotiate a permanent solution in 2015."
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The United States and other countries want limits on public stockholding because they contend that stockholding of food interferes with trade, distorts markets and also can interfere with food security in other countries.
Indian officials said that the agreement was a victory for India's efforts to protect its small farmers. But U.S officials said the agreement was a "clarification … not an alteration" of the Bali agreement.
National Association of Manufacturers Vice President of International Economic Affairs Linda Dempsey said today that the breakthrough between India and the United States "is very welcome news to manufacturers that are seeking to grow opportunities through trade with overseas markets."
"We applaud the tireless efforts of Ambassador Froman and Ambassador [Michael] Punke as they persevered to ensure that this widely supported agreement could move forward despite the road blocks placed in its path by a few countries," Dempsey said.
"The TFA represents an unparalleled opportunity to boost global growth and commerce by the simple task of cutting red tape, streamlining border processing and adding transparency to customs operations worldwide. The NAM stands ready to work with the United States, the WTO and member countries in support of full implementation of this pivotal agreement."
House Ways and Means Committee ranking member Sander Levin, D-Mich., said he welcomed the "substantial progress" the Obama administration had made on both the Trade Facilitation Agreement and a separate Information Technology Agreement.
"While we will need to study the details of both arrangements, and more work remains to be done, it appears that both outcomes will be good for U.S. businesses and workers," Levin said. "The United States has demonstrated real leadership in these WTO negotiations at a critical time for the organization."
–The Hagstrom Report