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WTO Members Approve Historic Trade Deal

The World Trade Organization has received the unanimous backing of its 160 member nations for a first-ever multilateral trade deal, an agreement that has been years in the making and that the organization claims could add $1 trillion annually to global commerce.

India had been a sticking point on the Trade Facilitation Agreement. New Delhi had insisted that there be no constraints on stockpiling food. CNBC says the agreement allows that "for developing countries, public food procurement programs for food security will not be challenged. But India and other developing countries will have to report their procurement to the WTO."

European Union Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom was quoted by The Associated Press as saying: "Once in force, it will help developing countries better integrate into the global economy, intensify regional integration and lift millions out of poverty.

"This is a very important moment for the WTO," said Azevedo. "We have put ourselves back in the game. We have put our negotiating work back on track."

According to AP:

"Critics have worried that the agreement could make it harder for countries to set their own priorities on environmental and labor protections, food security and other trade-related issues. The WTO has said, however, that the Trade Facilitation Agreement could increase total world trade to $23 trillion from its current estimate of $22 trillion.

"As the years dragged by and the organization's members continued to disagree on fundamentals, many observers considered that the WTO was losing its relevance and that countries would be better off concentrating on bilateral trade deals."

The historic agreement will go into effect once it is ratified by two-thirds of the signatory countries.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.