On November 27, the General Council of the World Trade Organization (WTO) adopted a decision to implement the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA). The TFA was the centerpiece of the Bali Package, which had been accepted at the Ministerial level in December 2013 at Bali and was set to be implemented by the deadline of July 2014. The implementation of the TFA, however, was derailed when India sought to tie the TFA's implementation – which had been pushed especially by the United States, the European Union, and other industrialized countries – to its own demands on public stockholding of foodstuffs. India and some supporters had agreed to the Bali Package in 2013, in part, because of a temporary "peace clause" which would shield India's potentially WTO-inconsistent agricultural subsidy programs from challenge before the WTO's dispute settlement system.
As the July 31, 2014 deadline for the adoption of the Protocol of Amendment to implement the TFA came and went, India maintained its position in the face of opposition by most of the remaining WTO Membership, and these actions threatened to halt the negotiating function of the WTO, which had gained such a boost by the progress, including on the TFA, made at the 2013 Bali Ministerial Conference. While the issue was on the agenda of the September 2014 meeting in Washington between President Obama and the new Indian Prime Minister Modi, no breakthrough was made at that time. Finally, on November 13, the United States and India announced a bilateral agreement allowing for the implementation of the TFA to proceed and providing for a more permanent peace clause for India's food stockholding program. The decision on the peace clause sets a target date of December 2015 to negotiate a permanent solution to the food stockholding issue, but the peace clause does not have an actual deadline for expiration as it effectively lasts until a permanent solution is negotiated. After this agreement, WTO Director-General Azevêdo consulted with Members to prepare for discussion by the General Council of the acceptance the Protocol of Amendment for the implementation of the TFA. The General Council adopted the Protocol of Amendment on the TFA and the decision on food stockholding, along with a decision to resume the Bali Work Program, at its November 27 meeting.
These developments on TFA implementation have now set the stage for the finalization of the Bali Work Program to implement the decisions from the 2013 Bali Ministerial by July 2015. Along with progress on the Information Technology Agreement (see coverage in this issue), the WTO has revitalized its role as a multilateral negotiating body. The support for international trade by American manufacturers and others from the implementation of the TFA is clear, and the overall boost to international trade from these multilateral breakthroughs will have great implications for manufacturers and exporters across industries.