Eleventh-hour deal 'delivered' for WTO
A deal to boost global trade has been approved by the World Trade Organisation's 159 member economies for the first time in nearly two decades, keeping alive the possibility that a broader agreement to create a level playing field for rich and poor countries can be reached in the future.
WTO director general Roberto Azevedo shed tears during the summit's closing ceremony yesterday as he thanked host nation Indonesia, WTO member countries and his wife.
"We have put the world back into the World Trade Organisation," he said. "For the first time in our history, the WTO has truly delivered."
Trade ministers had come to the meeting on the resort island of Bali with little hope that an agreement would be reached after years of inertia in trade negotiations.
The talks were threatened at the eleventh hour when Cuba objected to the removal of a reference to the decades-long US trade embargo that Cuba wants lifted.
India had also been an obstacle because of its vociferous objections to provisions that might endanger grain subsidies aimed at ensuring its poor get enough to eat. WTO members gave developing nations a temporary dispensation from subsidy limits, shelving the issue for a later time.
Speaking on his return from the wto conference Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton welcomed the historic breakthrough.
"What was agreed in Indonesia is globally significant. It will cut customs red tape and bureaucracy, making it cheaper, smoother and quicker for exporters to sell internationally.
"It is highly significant for agriculture, trade facilitation and support for developing countries. It will help provide food security for billions of people, while opening new markets for less-developed countries to sell more, helping their economies grow and take greater strides in tackling poverty."
The deal could boost global trade by $1 trillion over time and also keeps alive the WTO's broader Doha round of trade negotiations, sometimes known as the development round because of sweeping changes in regulations, taxes and subsidies that would benefit low income countries.
The idea behind the WTO is that if all countries play by the same trade rules, then all countries, rich or poor, will benefit.
But some critics say WTO rules may hinder countries from setting their own priorities in environmental protection, worker rights, food security and other areas.
Apart from being a forum for world trade talks, it arbitrates trade disputes between member countries.