World Economy

WTO to Implement Bali Trade Deal

WTO to Implement  Bali Trade Deal WTO to Implement  Bali Trade Deal

Ending months of deadlock, the World Trade Organization agreed Thursday to implement the first global trade reform agreement in its 19-year-history.

The deal means the 160-member global trade body can begin putting into action a landmark deal reached in Bali late last year to overhaul global customs procedures, AFP reported.

Economists have estimated the measures could help create $1 trillion in economic activity and 21 million jobs worldwide.

“We are back on track!” an ebullient WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo told reporters.

“We have renewed the commitment to the multilateral system,” he added.

The member states adopted two texts presented Monday: the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) protocol, aimed at streamlining global customs procedures, and one on the management of food stockpiles.

The two texts were agreed upon late last year in Bali, but work towards their implementation had been stalled since July, when India refused to endorse the pact unless its food stockpiles were exempted from possible punitive measures.

 Food Stockpiling

India and its supporters in the developing world have argued that food stockpiling is essential to ensure poor farmers and consumers survive in the cut-throat 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 member states agreed Thursday to try to find a permanent solution to the stockpile issue by December 2015.

Azevedo stressed though that the UN trade body needed to act fast to implement Thursday’s agreement.

 Precious Time Lost

“We have lost precious time since July, and it goes without saying that we can’t wait another two decades to deliver further multilateral outcomes,” he told trade diplomats in Geneva.

Two thirds of WTO’s members must ratify the TFA before it can take effect, he pointed out, urging countries to hasten the procedure. Diplomats hailed the deal to put the TFA into action.

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem said it had the potential to “help developing countries better integrate into the global economy, intensify regional integration and lift millions out of poverty.”

The 160 countries which make up the WTO set trade rules among themselves in an attempt to ensure a level playing field and spur growth by opening markets and removing trade barriers, including subsidies, excessive taxes and regulations.

Bali was the first multilateral agreement concluded by the WTO since its inception in 1995.

It also signaled the first concrete progress on the Doha Round of trade liberalization talks, launched in 2001 and aimed at underpinning development in poorer nations.

The member states had agreed on a new July, 2015 deadline to decide on a work program for those talks, Azevedo said.

It will likely take a while to complete those negotiations. It took nearly a decade to conclude the trade facilitation portion, which began in 2004.

“We have delivered today on a promise we made in Bali,” Azevedo told trade diplomats Thursday.

“Now let’s make it count.”