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Bali Ministerial is a major boost for multilateral trade systems: WTO Director General
Jan 28, 2014

WTO members should develop a single understanding of agriculture, NAMA & services: Anand Sharma

BANGALORE: The outcomes of the WTO Ministerial Meeting in Bali, Indonesia in December 2013 have resurrected the world’s confidence in multilateral trade systems. Stating this in his address on ‘Entering into a New Trade Era Post Bali’ on Day 2 of the three-day CII Partnership Summit 2014 being organised in Bangalore, Mr Roberto Azevedo, Director General, World Trade Organisation, said the “Bali job” is not over. The focus now shifts to the effective implementation of the decisions taken at the Ministerial such that it leads to the conclusion of the Doha Round.

Mr Azevedo said the greater goal of the Bali Ministerial was to improve the well being of millions of people around the world. He pointed out that the Bali Agreement came through at a time when the world faces high volatility in capital flows, high incidence of inflation in global economies, and monetary and fiscal imbalances in many regions. He said that the Trade Facilitation Agreement could bring about 10-15% reduction in export and import transaction costs for countries, which will likely result in a significant expansion of world trade.

Mr Azevedo also pointed out that the Ministerial focus on trade facilitation is expected to add $1 trillion to world trade volumes and create some 21 million jobs worldwide. He added that the Bali outcomes will also trigger greater investments in trade-related infrastructure. He observed that the agreements will also facilitate the realization of India-Africa bilateral trade target of $100 billion by 2015.

Referring to the issue of non-binding rules in the WTO text, Mr. Azevedo said they are meant to be worked upon in the post-Bali work programme. He acknowledged India’s key role in bringing about a consensus on food stockpiling in the developing countries to support their food security programmes.

Mr Azevedo called for a holistic approach to WTO negotiations on agriculture, market access to non-agriculture goods, and services.

Mr Anand Sharma, Minister of Commerce & Industry, Government of India, said in his address that the Bali Ministerial protected the right of the developing countries to stockpile food. He said that the prospect of $1 trillion addition to world trade volumes in the post-Bali period was no mean achievement.

Mr Sharma said the Bali Ministerial underscored the centrality of the WTO in the rules-based multilateral trade system. He reiterated Mr Azevedo’s view that member countries need to develop a unified view of the three pillars -- agriculture, market access to non-agriculture goods, and services.

Mr Sharma said that trade facilitation is being driven by new technologies which will make exports much more competitive.

Mr Mustapa Bin Mohammed, Minister of International Trade & Industry, Malaysia, said he expected world trade volumes to increase significantly in the wake of successes at the Bali Ministerial. He urged WTO to focus greater attention on addressing the issue of non-tariff barriers (NTBs). He also called for greater focus on accelerating SME business growth globally.

Mr S Iswaran, Minister in Prime Minister’s Office; Second Minister for Home Affairs and Second Minister for Trade and Industry, Singapore, said that that business should play a key role in promoting multilateral trade systems.

Ms Arancha Gonzales, Executive Director, International Trade Centre, Geneva, said that the emerging multilateral trade regime should provide an enabling environment for SMEs around the world. Ms Gonzales pointed out that the frontiers of global trade in goods and services is getting increasingly blurred, more so on countries like India. This needs to get reflected in the negotiations.

Mr Willam Danvers, Deputy Secretary General, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), France, said that India with its strong IT and service capabilities is ideally placed to leverage the new opportunities that come with greater integration with global value chains.

Mr B Muthuraman, Past President, CII and Vice Chairman, Tata Steel Ltd, said that even as services gain greater focus in global negotiations, member countries need to consider liberalising movement of people between countries.

Mr Dhruv M Sawhney, Past President, CII and Chairman & Managing Director, Triveni Engineering & Industries Ltd, moderated the session.

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