In December, the members of the World Trade Organisation signed the group's first ever major agreement, designed to remove international trade barriers and give a $1 trillion shot in the arm to global commerce.
"We have put the world back into the World Trade Organisation. For the first time in our history, the WTO has truly delivered," director general Roberto Azevedo said.
It was the first comprehensive agreement hammered out by the WTO since it was founded in 1995. Ministers from 159 countries agreed the deal, which was signed in Bali, Indonesia. "This week has been about high-level diplomacy, long nights and considerable drama," said Indonesian trade minister Gita Wirjawan, who chaired the meeting. "But it has also been about ensuring that the gains of the multilateral trading system reach our small businesses and our most vulnerable economies."
The centrepiece of the agreement is measures to ease barriers to trade by simplifying customs procedures and making them more transparent. But some critics claimed WTO rules might hinder countries from setting their own priorities in environmental protection, worker rights, food security and other areas. And they said that sudden reductions in import tariffs could wipe out industries, causing job losses in rich and poor countries.