Timothy A. Wise
Re-published from the Global Post.
BALI, Indonesia — A tense and acrimonious four-day standoff ended Saturday morning at the World Trade Organization meeting in Bali.
A last-minute objection by Cuba and three Latin American allies held up the agreement Friday night, with Cuba objecting to the hypocrisy of a “trade facilitation” agreement – one part of the so-called Bali package – that ignored the United States’ discriminatory treatment of the island nation under the US trade embargo.
Overnight, text was added to reflect Cuba’s concern even if it did nothing to resolve the issue. Call it the story of the WTO.
Leading up to this week’s meeting, the US and other rich countries had attempted to declare India’s food security program in violation of the WTO’s archaic and biased rules and sought to discipline the program as “trade distorting.”
India and other developing countries fended off the challenge to these programs, which support small farmers and help feed the hungry. But the final agreement is no green light.
Countries considering such programs would not be protected by the “peace clause” that will shield India and some others for the next four years. And onerous reporting requirements put the onus on the developing country to prove that its stock-holding program is not “trade distorting.”
In return for the modest protections for food security programs, and a vague package of reforms for the least developed countries, developing countries also agreed here to a trade facilitation package that could benefit some of them but might demand more than they can give.