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WTO Ministerial in Bali: Prospects for a substantive outcome on Trade Facilitation

The BGIPU, in partnership with the APPG on Trade out of Poverty, convened a briefing on 6 November by the Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint, Minister of State for Trade and Investment, on the preparations for the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial to be chaired by Indonesia in Bali from 3 to 6 December.  The briefing was chaired by the BGIPU Chairman, Robert Walter MP and participants from both Houses had the opportunity to discuss key challenges and expected outcomes with Lord Green who will also be one of the Vice-Chairs (along with counterparts from Peru and Rwanda)  of the Bali Ministerial.

Providing an overview, Lord Green said we have an important opportunity in Bali to demonstrate that the Doha development round was not dead and to prove the WTO has a significant strategic role to play in the world’s economic development.  He said what is on the table at Bali is a trade facilitation deal and the key objective for the new WTO Director-General, Roberto Azevêdo, was to try to pull together a consensus behind a cohesive package of measures to be signed off by WTO members in Bali.

Lord Green said any outcome would not be the end of a process, however, as it will be the continuation of a longer process.  A post-Bali roadmap will be needed to identify the contours of any follow-on process and there will be international dialogue on various aspects, both of trade facilitation and of other matters, like agriculture, that will have to go on after that.  It was important to recognise that a trade facilitation deal, if achieved, would be worth around half of all the benefits of Doha, so it very significant.  It is also very clear that every single country gains from it, albeit some would gain more than others.

As is usual in such complex international negotiations, Lord Green noted there was a range of other issues needing to be accounted for in reaching an agreed outcome.  Least and less developed countries were looking for assurances of adequate technical assistance to help meet their multilateral trade commitments.  There have been some good proposals coming through from the ACP and they need to be taken seriously because they are realistic and would make a great deal of difference to sensible implementation.  There are also proposals on food security and agricultural export subsidies which will need to be discussed.

Lord Green said, the next few weeks will be crucial in the lead up to the Bali Ministerial and an immense amount of work is underway to get as much of it agreed as possible in advance of Bali.  At the meeting itself, members will need to achieve high-level political agreement to get the total package over the line, and all the interlocking elements would need to fall into place to ensure this.  To this extent, significant work remains to be done to secure what is shaping as an important outcome for the WTO, ultimately providing a basis for greatly improved conditions for export trade and better prospects for global economic development.