The first global trade reform since the creation of the World Trade Organization is ready for agreement by ministers from the body’s 159 member countries later on Friday, sources involved in the talks said.
WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo has drafted a text that he will submit to the full membership, signaling that he believes he has found terms that are acceptable to all members, including India which had raised vocal objections over agriculture.
Barring any last-minute veto, the deal aims to slash red tape at customs around the world, give improved terms of trade to the poorest countries, and allow developing countries to skirt the normal rules on farm subsidies if they are trying to feed the poor.
It would also revive confidence in the WTO’s ability to negotiate global trade deals, after a string of failures that left the body at risk of sliding into irrelevance.
“We are very close,” WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell told reporters at the meeting on the Indonesian resort island of Bali. “As things stand now, the prospects are promising.”
Just a day earlier, a deal that would add hundreds of billions of dollars to the world economy by some estimates teetered on the brink of collapse.
In an organization based on consensus among all of its members, attention focused squarely on India as the main stumbling block to the WTO’s first global trade deal in two decades.