The World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Bali Ministerial Conference has produced a package of issues designed to streamline trade, allow developing countries more options for providing food security, and boost least developed countries’ trade.
The delegates said the Bali Package was needed not only because of the direct benefits it would give, but also because it would reinvigorate the WTO and its trading system.
It would also provide the momentum to conclude the Doha Round of negotiations, which was launched in 2001 and has seen little progress since 2008 until work intensified on the Bali Package this year.
The text adopted in Bali, Indonesia, is not final, although the substance will not change, the WTO said in a statement. It will be checked and corrected to ensure the language is legally correct, aiming for the General Council to adopt it by July 31, 2014.
The most significant for global commerce is the trade facilitation part of the package, which is about cutting red tape and speeding up port clearances, the WTO added.
The trade facilitation decision is a multilateral deal to simplify customs procedures by reducing costs and improving their speed and efficiency. It will be a legally binding agreement and is one of the biggest reforms of the WTO since its establishment in 1995.
The objectives are to speed up customs procedures; make trade easier, faster and cheaper; provide clarity, efficiency and transparency; reduce bureaucracy and corruption, and use technological advances. It also has provisions on goods in transit, an issue particularly of interest to landlocked countries seeking to trade through ports in neighbouring countries.
The benefits to the world economy of trade facilitation are calculated to be between US$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.
Much of the rest of the package focuses on various issues related to development, including food security in developing countries and 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.
Almost all delegates to the Bali conference said the package should be adopted in full, even if they were not completely happy with some parts of it, said the statement.