WASHINGTON, Nov. 13, 2014 – U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman says this has been a “milestone week” for U.S. trade.
Froman spoke to reporters hours after the U.S. and India reached agreement on an issue that had been blocking implementation of the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), a deal aimed at cutting the red tape involved with moving goods across international borders. In a conference call, he said that when implemented, TFA could add a trillion dollars to the global economy.
The U.S.-India agreement “adds to the list of momentum-building successes” the Obama administration has had in the past few days, Froman said on a conference call. One of successes involved apparent movement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a potential free-trade pact among the U.S. and 11 other Pacific Rim nations, and the other, a tentative deal between the U.S. and China expanding the range of high-tech goods covered under so-called Information Technology Agreement.
“This has been a good week for trade and the growth and jobs it supports here in the United States,” Froman said. “The U.S. worked with China to achieve a breakthrough on the Information Technology Agreement, worked with India to move forward with the implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement, and worked with our TPP partners to bring the end of these landmark negotiations clearly into sight.
“Together, these will provide a major boost to the global trading system at a critical time in the world's economic recovery, a central focus of the upcoming G-20 Summit,” Froman said. The meeting involving the world’s major economies is taking place in Brisbane, Australia, this coming weekend.
The deal with India was related to a program in which the government buys grain and other commodities from its farmers, stockpiles the goods and then sells them at subsidized prices to the poor. The program appears to violate WTO agricultural subsidy limits. In July, India had threatened to veto the TFA, the first significant global trade deal since the creation of the WTO nearly 20 years ago, unless the dispute over the food security program was resolved.
The agreement with India specifies that WTO members won’t challenge food security programs like India's until a permanent solution to that issue is negotiated. India and the U.S. also agreed that the TFA should be implemented without any new conditions on what was already agreed to previously, at a WTO ministerial in Bali in December, the USTR’s office said.
Regarding the TPP, Froman noted President Obama and the leaders of the other nations in the ambitious free-trade deal had issued a statement saying that the “end was coming into focus” following five years of negotiations. There was no mention of the issues that remain unresolved, including Japan’s reluctance to drop tariffs on its “sacred” agricultural products, including rice, wheat, sugar, dairy and beef and pork.
During the conference, call Froman praised Obama for his “personal leadership,” saying the president played a critical role in all three trade developments, in talks with China’s President Xi Jinping in Beijing, during negotiations with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and in meetings with the other TPP leaders.
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