The 160 members of the World Trade Organization agreed Thursday in Geneva to implement a landmark global trade agreement reached in Bali last December, a spokesman said.
The deal to implement the first global trade reform pact in the WTO's 19-year history was finally reached Thursday after negotiations were delayed for 24 hours.
"We've made it!" WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo had said in a speech to member states, according to a trade diplomat in the room.
"We have put ourselves back in the game," he was quoted as saying, adding "We've seen a renewed commitment to the multilateral system."
The member states had adopted two texts presented Monday: the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), aimed at streamlining global customs procedures, and one on the management of food stockpiles.
These two texts were agreed upon late last year in Bali, but had been stalled since July, when India refused to endorse the pact unless its food stockpiles were exempted from possible punitive measures.
India and its supporters in the developing world have argued that food stockpiling is essential to ensure poor farmers and consumers survive in the cutthroat world of business.
But stockpiling and subsidies for the poor are considered trade-distorting under existing WTO rules.
India and the United States finally said earlier this month that they had resolved the row, and the WTO member states had been expected to seal the deal.
The final agreement to put the Trade Facilitation Agreement into action was met with applause.
"Once in force, it will help developing countries better integrate into the global economy, intensify regional integration and lift millions out of poverty," EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem enthused in a statement.
US trade representative Michael Froman also hailed the deal, which he described as "a critical step forward by breaking the impasse that has prevailed since July."
"The Trade Facilitation Agreement has the potential to fundamentally reform global customs practices and substantially reduce the costs and time associated with goods crossing borders," he pointed out in a statement, calling it the "perfect example of how breaking down barriers to trade can unlock new opportunities for developed and developing countries alike, and it's a particularly important win for small and businesses in all countries."
"With this win under the WTO’s belt, we can once again focus our efforts on revitalising the organisation’s core negotiating functions," Froman said.