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India plays chicken with the W.T.O.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh delivers a speech in New Delhi on September 23, 2013.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visits India on Thursday, just as India has thrown the world economy a curve ball by refusing to sign a World Trade Organization agreement at the last moment.

“They believe progress on discussing food security is not moving as quickly as it should, and so they want to use what they see as leverage,” says Alyssa Ayres, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

That leverage is the Thursday deadline for the WTO deal to cut the red tape on international trade, specifically targeting the bureaucracy around customs.

Boosters say the deal would result in one trillion dollars worth of economic stimulus and create as many as 21 million new jobs worldwide.

“I don’t know how many jobs it’s going to create, and I think the numbers are exaggerated. But I think that it’s critical that this agreement happens so that we have this system of international rules under the WTO,” says Kimberly Elliott, a senior fellow with the Center for Global Development.

She says the WTO helps protect small, developing countries which – unlike India – would otherwise be at the mercy of their more powerful trading partners.

About the author

Jeff Tyler is a reporter for Marketplace’s Los Angeles bureau, where he reports on issues related to immigration and Latin America.

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