By James Glynn
SYDNEY--India could yet scuttle a landmark trade deal struck in Bali, Indonesia, last year, despite widespread lobbying by other countries for it to support the plan at a meeting of the G-20 Trade Ministers forum in Sydney on Saturday.
According to a senior trade official involved in the talks, there is no guarantee India will back the so-called trade-facilitation agreement, despite a broad affirmation of the plan by member countries this week.
There "isn't full confidence" in India on the issue, which faces a July 31 deadline for its adoption.
Members of the World Trade Organization are trying to ratify the deal struck in December, which would standardize and streamline customs procedures around the globe. India's leaders have said previously they may not support the so-called trade-facilitation agreement if the country isn't given more freedom to stockpile food.
To take effect, the new rules must first be approved by all 160 WTO member nations. The trade initiative has to be ratified by the end of this month and sets mid-2015 as a deadline for formal implementation.
Another senior trade official at the meetings, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there was a "lack of ambition" of behalf of India to deal with its concerns, amid reports its delegation was absent from the main meetings for some of the time.
At stake is the future of the first significant global trade reforms to emerge from the WTO in 20 years. Without agreement, some delegates at the meeting questioned the future of the WTO itself.
India's concerns deal in part with financial support for poorer countries to meet the requirement of the trade facilitation agreement, and secondly its own concerns around food security
Business leaders attending a B20 conference in Sydney earlier this week, supported by the Director-General of the World Trade Organization Roberto Azevedo, urged India to accept the reforms.
Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb said Saturday there was strong affirmation of the Bali agreement at the meeting, saying further talks were likely with India over coming days to iron out remaining concerns.
"Every country at the meeting did reaffirm their commitment," to the Bali agreements, Mr. Robb told reporters at the conclusion of the meeting.
"The priority over the next nine days is to seek a satisfactory solution to the concerns that a couple of countries have got with the pace" of the reforms.
"It's not a question of renegotiation. Everybody including India recommitted publicly to the package," Mr. Robb said.
U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said the U.S. is focused on implementing the full Bali package.
"Reinvigorating the multilateral system is too important to put at risk with any backsliding on commitments," he said.
Write to James Glynn at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
July 19, 2014 07:32 ET (11:32 GMT)
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