WTO members fail to agree global trade deal

Container port The WTO had seemed on the verge of reaching its first major agreement

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The World Trade Organization says its 160 members have failed to agree a global customs pact drawn up in meetings in Bali last December.

The Trade Facilitation Agreement would have streamlined global customs procedures, and should have been finalised by Thursday.

But it was blocked over a number of rifts, including India's demands for concessions on the stockpiling of food.

The WTO said it had not been possible to find a breakthrough.

'Uncertain ground'

"We have not been able to find a solution that would allow us to bridge the gap," WTO director-general Roberto Azevedo said.

He asked WTO members "to reflect long and hard on the ramifications of this setback".

And US ambassador to the WTO, Michael Punke, said that the failure to agree a deal had "put this institution on very uncertain new ground".

The WTO had seemed to be on the verge of reaching its first comprehensive agreement since it was founded in 1995.

But India vetoed the proposal at a late stage, demanding greater concessions over farm subsidies and agricultural stockpiles.

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Analysis: Andrew Walker, BBC economics correspondent

"This is not just another delay which we can simply ignore." That is what the WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo told the member countries' trade negotiators.

The Bali agreement on trade facilitation was the one and only achievement to date from the Doha Round negotiations that were launched in 2001.

The struggle to make progress has already raised questions about whether the WTO has a future as the forum for international trade negotiations.

Many countries are seeking deals on a bilateral basis outside the WTO. It will only reinforce the doubts about the WTO if the members can't press ahead in the one area where they previously seemed to have made a genuine breakthrough.

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