Ministers from 159 countries attending the 9th World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference in Bali, Indonesia, have reached a deal intended to boost global trade.
The WTO’s first comprehensive agreement involves an effort to simplify the procedures for doing business across borders.
There will also be improved duty-free access for goods sold by the world’s poorest countries.
The deal, which could add about $1 trillion to world trade, gives developing nations more scope to increase farm subsidies.
“For the first time in our history, the WTO has truly delivered,” said WTO chief Roberto Azevedo, as the organization reached its first comprehensive agreement since it was founded in 1995.
“This time the entire membership came together. We have put the ‘world’ back in World Trade Organization,” he said.
However, the deal was earlier criticized by some development campaigners, who said it was not going far enough.
It is worth spelling out something what is not covered by this – tariffs or taxes on imported goods.
Dealing with them has been the bread butter of past trade rounds – but not for this deal.
The core of this agreement is what is called trade facilitation. This is about reducing the costs and delays involved in international trade. It is often described as “cutting red tape”.
Some analysts suggest the benefits could be large. An influential Washington think tank has put the potential gains to the world economy at close to $1 trillion and 20m million jobs.
It also estimates the cost of administrative barrier as double the cost of tariffs.
The rich countries have agreed to help the poorer WTO members with implementing this agreement.
Another important aspect of the Bali package is about enabling poor countries to sell their goods more easily. This part is about tariffs, and also quota limits on imports.
Rich countries and the more advanced developing countries have agreed to cut tariffs on products from the poorest nations.
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