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WTO fails to agree key trade deal

© AFP | Delegates leave a meeting at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) headquarters in Geneva late on July 31, 2014Delegates leave a meeting at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) headquarters in Geneva late on July 31, 2014

The World Trade Organization on Thursday said its 160 members had failed to agree a landmark global customs pact in a move the US said left the body on "uncertain new ground".

"We have not been able to find a solution that would allow us to bridge the gap," WTO director-general Roberto Azevedo said in a statement after the passing of a July 31 deadline for the deal.

A draft of the so-called Trade Facilitation Agreement, which would streamline global customs procedures, was agreed at a Bali conference in December last year and was meant to be finalised this month.

But rifts between members, particularly over demands from India that the world body gives the green light to the developing power's stockpiling of food, had threatened to scuttle the long-sought deal.

Azevedo urged members "to reflect long and hard on the ramifications of this setback".

US ambassador to the WTO Michael Punke said the failure to agree a deal "has put this institution on very uncertain new ground."

"We are obviously sad and disappointed that a very small handful of countries were unwilling to keep their commitments from the December conference in Bali," he said after the meeting in Geneva.Trade