India and SA block investment facilitation pact at WTO

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The formal objection stops inclusion of the China-backed initiative at WTO
Abu Dhabi — India and SA have filed a formal objection against an
investment pact at a World Trade Organisation (WTO) meeting in Abu
Dhabi, blocking its adoption in a move that observers say could block
hundreds of billions of dollars in investment.
The proposal backed by nearly three-quarters of the WTO’s members
aims to simplify red tape, improve the investment environment and
encourage foreign direct investment.
But according to WTO rules, any of its 164 members can block a deal
from being adopted by the body — a step which is necessary to ensure
that countries are in compliance.
“We underscore that given the lack of exclusive consensus, this is not a
matter for the … (meeting) agenda,” a WTO document showed.
Both the developing countries in their submission said as there was no
exclusive consensus on the agreement, it cannot be included in the 13th
Ministerial Conference, reports said. 
The Indian and SA delegations did not immediately comment publicly on
the development.

Alan Yanovich, partner at Akin Gump Strauss, said the “deplorable”
development would hurt the world’s poorest countries the most.
“The notion that two members can prevent a broad group of willing
members from moving forward is absurd,” he said.
A Western trade delegate at the talks called it “ironic that India and South
Africa stand in the way of something with such manifest benefits for
developing countries”.
The initiative, known as the Investment Facilitation for Development (IFD)
Agreement led by Chile and South Korea with China’s strong support,
could lead to between $200bn-$800bn of improvements in global welfare,
according to one study.
Four-day WTO talks to set new global trade rules on a broad range of
topics including fishing and agriculture are due to wrap up on Thursday,
though delegates said that little progress has so far been made, barring
the formal accession of two new members to the body: East Timor and
The US trade chief on Tuesday ruled out a deal on reforming the WTO
dispute settlement system, hobbled for four years due to US objections.
A paragraph on climate change is confined to a WTO annex of the draft
package of deals since members cannot agree.
“These are not small, easy to deal with issues, these are some of the big
things that either distort trade or stop nations from being able to feed their
own people,” New Zealand’s trade minister Todd McClay said.

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