Round-the-clock consultations in Bali achieved an agreement that even World Trade Organization Director General Roberto Azevêdo had considered unlikely because of a lack of political will.
“For the first time in our history, the WTO has truly delivered,” DG Azevêdo said at the Ministerial Conference. “I challenged you all, here in Bali, to show the political will we needed to take us across the finish line. You did that. And I thank you for it.”
The package streamlines trade and expands options for developing nations to achieve food security and increase trade opportunities for least developed countries. The most significant aspect of the Bali agreement for global commerce involves trade facilitation, cutting red tape and speeding port clearances. Much of the rest of the package focuses on issues related to development, including food security in developing countries, cotton and a number of other provisions for least developed countries. The package also includes a political commitment to reduce export subsidies in agriculture and keep them at low levels, and to reduce obstacles to trade when agricultural products are imported through quotas.
During the final critical hours of negotiation, almost all members said the package should be adopted in full, even if they were not completely happy with some parts of it. However a small group of countries — Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Venezuela — recorded serious reservations about what they considered imbalances in the package in favor of richer countries, and the absence of provisions barring discrimination in the form of trade embargoes on goods in transit.
Overall, however, ministers agreed the package was needed because of the benefits it would give directly, but also because it would reinvigorate the WTO and its trading system and provide the momentum to conclude the Doha Round, which was launched in 2001 and has seen little progress since 2008 until work intensified on the Bali Package this year.
The benefits to the world economy are calculated to be between $400 billion and $1 trillion by reducing costs of trade by between 10 percent and 15 percent, increasing trade flows and revenue collection, creating a stable business environment and attracting foreign investment.
The text adopted in Bali is not final, although the substance will not change. It will be checked and amended to ensure the language is legally correct, aiming for General Council adoption by July 31, 2014.
As the next step, DG Azevêdo directed members to focus on the Doha Development Agenda. “The decisions we have taken here are an important stepping stone towards the completion of the Doha round.” He plans to deliver a work program for Doha within the next 12 months.