World Trade Organization members this week failed to ratify a trade agreement that would have reduced trade costs and generated economic activity, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
The Trade Facilitation Agreement planned to speed movement, release and clearance of goods, improve cooperation among WTO members on customs matters, and help developing countries fully implement the obligations, the USTR said.
The agreement was reached at the WTO's Ninth Ministerial Conference in Bali, Indonesia, last year, but was scheduled for ratification this week. Without the ratification vote, the TFA cannot be adopted as legal text, according to the WTO.
Entering a veto on the TFA was India, which had concerns about caps on food subsidies and stockpiles.
"The Trade Facilitation Agreement reached in Bali came about only after negotiators agreed that some countries should be allowed to subsidize and stockpile food for citizens who have difficulty paying for it," AFBF President Bob Stallman explained in a statement Friday. "Now, it seems, India wants a final agreement on that issue before they will move forward with customs reform.
"We understand their eagerness to settle that issue, but this intransigence represents a failure to honor previous promises," Stallman said.
Following the indication that agreement on the TFA would not be reached prior to the deadline, WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo on Thursday evening urged WTO member countries to "reflect on this [outcome] very seriously and very carefully — to consider what the next steps might be."
It is expected that discussion on the TFA could occur again in September, according to Azevedo's comments.
Stallman indicated that the delay on ratifying such an agreement is detrimental to agricultural trade.
"Improving slow and out-of-date customs procedures supports all kinds of international trade, but agricultural goods need speedier passage across borders, especially," Stallman said. "Time spent waiting at borders too often results in a substantial decline in food quality and direct economic losses to U.S. producers. When trade slows, the American farmer suffers."