His­toric deal:

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By XIN­HUA in Bali, In­done­sia

World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion Direc­tor-Gen­eral Roberto Azevedo gives a thumbs up to the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s first global trade deal passed at the ninth WTO Min­is­te­rial Con­fer­ence on the In­done­sian re­sort is­land of Bali on Satur­day.

Af­ter more than a decade of ne­go­ti­a­tions and missed dead­lines, the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion has fi­nally achieved a break­through in its marathon trade- lib­er­al­iza­tion ne­go­ti­a­tions as trade min­is­ters clinched a deal af­ter a pro­longed meet­ing on the In­done­sian re­sort is­land of Bali.

The Bali Pack­age marks a con­crete step for­ward in the Doha Round talks, which were launched in 2001 with an aim to help poor na­tions over­come bar­ri­ers in global trade and pros­per through the free flow of goods.

The last-minute deal came af­ter tense overnight talks, draw­ing out the WTO’s 9th Min­is­te­rial Con­fer­ence from its sched­uled end on Fri­day af­ter­noon into Satur­day morn­ing.

“For the first time in our his­tory, the WTO has truly de­liv­ered,” said WTO di­rec­tor­gen­eral Roberto Azevedo, who ap­peared emo­tional at the clos­ing cer­e­mony of the meet­ing.

The “full Bali Pack­age” com­prises 10 doc­u­ments, cov­er­ing is­sues de­signed to stream­line trade, al­low de­vel­op­ing coun­tries more op­tions on food se­cu­rity, and boost­ing trade and devel­op­ment for de­vel­op­ing coun­tries and the least­de­vel­oped coun­tries.

The pack­age would boost the world econ­omy by the equiv­a­lent of $1 tril­lion a year, equiv­a­lent to the GDP of In­done­sia, said Azevedo, who had ear­lier urged min­is­ters to show “po­lit­i­cal will and en­gage­ment” in Bali.

The suc­cess had re­peat­edly ap­peared elu­sive be­fore and dur­ing the meet­ing due to lin­ger­ing im­passes that seemed al­most im­pos­si­ble to re­solve.

One of the ma­jor dead­locks was In­dia’s firm in­sis­tence on main­tain­ing its food se­cu­rity pro­gram with the ar­gu­ment that In­dia and other de­vel­op­ing coun­tries should be ex­empted from WTO rules on farm­ing sub­si­dies. This was op­posed by the de­vel­oped-coun­tries group, which was con­cerned that large stock­pil­ing and ex­ces­sively high sub­si­dies would dis­tort in­ter­na­tional grain prices.

“For In­dia, food se­cu­rity is non­nego­tiable,” In­dian Min­is­ter of Com­merce and In­dus­try Anand Sharma said.

For the first time in our his­tory, the WTO has truly de­liv­ered.” ROBERTO AZEVEDO WTO DIREC­TOR-GEN­ERAL

He in­sisted that his­tor­i­cal im­bal­ances in trade rules, such as the Agree­ment on Agri­cul­ture, had to be cor­rected to en­sure a fair and eq­ui­table mul­ti­lat­eral trade regime.

Pri­or­i­ties stressed

Fac­ing In­dia’s res­o­lu­tion, in­tense ne­go­ti­a­tions led to a com­pro­mise, with del­e­gates agree­ing on an in­terim so­lu­tion on food se­cu­rity is­sues un­til a per­ma­nent so­lu­tion is found, so that de­vel­op­ing coun­tries would not be chal­lenged through the WTO Dis­pute Set­tle­ment mech­a­nism.

Mean­while, they must en­sure that such mea­sures do not dis­tort trade or ad­versely af­fect the food se­cu­rity of other mem­bers. In re­turn, In­dia agreed to a new agree­ment on trade fa­cil­i­ta­tion, which is about cut­ting red tape and stream­lin­ing cus­toms and port pro­ce­dures.

Other deals also in­cluded a tar­iff quota ad­min­is­tra­tion, im­proved mar­ket ac­cess for cot­ton prod­ucts from the least­de­vel­oped coun­tries, and du­tyfree, quota-free ac­cess for the least- de­vel­oped coun­tries to ex­port to richer coun­tries.

An­other last-minute hur­dle emerged as four Latin Amer­i­can mem­bers un­ex­pect­edly re­jected the pack­age due to re­moval of a para­graph re­gard­ing the roll­back of the US trade em­bargo against Cuba, which pro­longed the meet­ing sev­eral hours.

Of­fi­cials were unan­i­mous in claim­ing the Bali Pack­age had re­stored some con­fi­dence to the WTO’s mul­ti­lat­eral trade sys­tem and the Doha Round, es­pe­cially at a time of bur­geon­ing plans for re­gional or bi­lat­eral free trade agree­ments out­side the WTO frame­work, such as the Trans Pa­cific Part­ner­ship and the Trans-At­lantic Trade and In­vest­ment Part­ner­ship.

“Through­out the devel­op­ment here in Bali, we have reaf­firmed the WTO’s role as the per­ma­nent fo­rum of mul­ti­lat­eral trade ne­go­ti­a­tions,” said Gita Wir­jawan, chair­man of the min­is­te­rial con­fer­ence and In­done­sia’s trade min­is­ter.

How­ever, the deal known as Doha- lite is only part of the Doha Round talks, and its completion has lead the WTO into a post-Bali pe­riod, turn­ing a page in its long pur­suit of a suc­cess­ful mul­ti­lat­eral trade sys­tem.

The de­ci­sions made in Bali are “im­por­tant step­ping stones to­ward the completion of the Doha Round”, which will not be “some­thing that we will con­clude quickly”, Azevedo said.

“This pack­age is not an end, it is a be­gin­ning.”

A clearly de­fined work pro­gram on the re­main­ing Doha Devel­op­ment Agenda is­sues will be pre­pared within the next 12 months, fo­cus­ing par­tic­u­larly on agri­cul­ture, devel­op­ment and is­sues of the least-de­vel­oped coun­tries, ac­cord­ing to a min­is­te­rial dec­la­ra­tion.

EDGAR SU / REUTERS

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