WASHINGTON The United States will insist that India and other World Trade Organization members stick to promises around a global deal to lower trade barriers and speed up the passage of goods through customs, a top trade official said on Wednesday.
India has criticized a deal struck in December in Bali for putting trade facilitation ahead of a compromise on agricultural subsidies, a crucial issue for a country that stockpiles food for its poor, and South Africa has also expressed concern.
U.S. Ambassador to the WTO Michael Punke said the United States was concerned about pushback from a "handful" of members on the deal, which was important for the credibility of the WTO. "We expect our trading partners to live up to their agreements," he told a Congressional panel. Member countries are due to sign a protocol that is a step towards implementing the Trade Facilitation Agreement by July 31 and Punke said the United States would insist all deadlines and procedures were strictly followed.
India's trade ministry said on Wednesday it would be "difficult" for it to support the protocol unless it is satisfied that adequate emphasis is being placed on negotiations about food security, even though India's top trade official said on Tuesday the country was not placing a condition for its support of the trade deal.
Punke planned to raise the TFA at a meeting of Group of 20 trade ministers in Sydney this week.
He said the United States had made incremental progress in pushing China on another deal to cut tariffs on high-tech goods. Recent talks in Beijing had addressed issues including magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography scan equipment, but there was still a way to go. "We are going to keep pushing and I think we can get there, he told the hearing, which coincided with a sixth round of talks in Brussels on a U.S.-EU trade agreement.
The European Union is pushing to include a specific energy chapter in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, but the United States is resisting. Once the trade agreement is signed, U.S. export licenses for gas would be automatic, but crude oil would still be subject to the parameters established in laws as far back as 1920 that effectively prohibited exports, with a few exceptions. Asked if the United States would free up export restrictions on crude oil under the TTIP, Punke told reporters: "We will not be changing our domestic energy laws in the context of TTIP." In a leaked internal paper dated May 27, the EU said its proposal of a legally binding guarantee for oil and gas exports would not require that the U.S. amend its existing legislation.
Washington took a step toward opening up oil exports last month when the Commerce Department told two energy companies they could export a light crude called condensate if it has been minimally processed.
(Reporting by Krista Hughes; Additional reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Meredith Mazzilli)