Last-ditch talks on a historic agreement at a meeting of the World Trade Organization in Bali were adjourned early on Saturday after Cuba raised objections, supported by Nicaragua and Bolivia, diplomats leaving the meeting said.
Diplomats said the Cuban delegation would consult with WTO chief Roberto Azevedo. It was unclear when the meeting would resume. Under WTO rules there must be consensus, or unanimous support of all the membership, for a deal to be agreed.
Earlier in the day, diplomats had said a deal is moving closer to approval after one of the biggest holdups on food subsidies was set aside following hours of global negotiations that went late into the night.
Trade ministers came to the summit on Indonesia's Bali island with little hope that a slimmed-down agreement would be reached, with India refusing to budge on a provision that could endanger subsidies for grains under a policy to feed its poor.
But a draft proposal released late Friday to be decided on by the ministers put the subsidy issue on the backburner, allowing room for consensus. It also would ease customs procedures.
India Trade Minister Anand Sharma says he endorses the draft proposal.
Worth $1 trillion to world economy?
Any potential deal could boost global trade by $1 trillion US.
It aims to slash red tape at customs around the world, give improved terms of trade to the poorest countries, and allow developing countries to skirt the normal rules on farm subsidies if they are trying to feed the poor.
With the deal now in jeopardy, there are questions about the WTO’s ability to negotiate global trade deals, after a string of failures that left the body at risk of sliding into irrelevance.
Cuba has been consistently demanding the United States lift its economic embargo of the Caribbean island as part of the Bali agreement, but trade diplomats say it has made the same demand for decades. A Cuban veto could derail the agreement.
Just a day earlier, the deal which needed consensus among all of its members, teetered on the brink of collapse because of objections by India.
India held out for farm support
India had insisted it would not compromise on a policy of subsidizing food for hundreds of millions of poor, putting it at odds with the United States and other developed countries. It had the backing of developing countries in Asia, Africa and South America.
It is 12 years since the WTO launched the Doha Round, which failed to yield concrete results, and many experts had warned that failure in Bali would leave regional and bilateral trade arrangements as the only avenue for trade reform, dividing the world and reversing the globalising goal of the WTO.
A Bali trade deal, which is far less ambitious than the Doha Round had aimed for up until two years ago, would open the way to much wider trade reforms and enable the body to modernize its rules for the internet era.