By Tom Miles

GENEVA (Reuters) - The World Trade Organization has about 20 working days left to stitch together the first global trade deal in two decades, but even the faster tempo of talks under new chief Roberto Azevedo may be too little, too late.

The proposed deal is far less ambitious than the Doha talks that the WTO pursued in vain for 12 years; but it would still add hundreds of billions of dollars to the world economy by some estimates and would open the way to much wider trade reforms, enabling the WTO to re-write its rules for the internet era.

"It's clear we can succeed if we want to. The only question is - what future do we choose for the WTO? The competing scenarios are stark but clear," U. S. Trade Representative Michael Froman told a WTO conference in Geneva on Tuesday.

Azevedo said on Monday he would send a letter to trade ministers from each of the WTO's 159 member countries, asking them to try to see the bigger picture and make a deal happen.

"But more importantly, as I have repeatedly stressed, at stake is the credibility of the multilateral trading system itself," Azevedo told WTO ambassadors.

Azevedo put Geneva's trade negotiators on a tough regime when he took over last month, starting meetings on time, limiting comments to 60 seconds, pressing ahead with discussions even if some ambassadors were absent, and cutting meetings short if no progress was being made.

He has told ambassadors to be on call 24 hours a day.

"This is shock treatment to get people to realise that this is crunch time," he said after the first round of talks.

Froman said Azevedo had given the WTO a chance to succeed, but noted that the WTO has consistently failed to agree any new global trade deal since it was founded in 1995.

Azevedo wants the bare bones of a deal in place by the end of October, to give enough time for a reform package to be finalised and signed by trade ministers at a conference in Bali in early December.

The hoped-for agreement covers several areas, the largest of which is trade facilitation - a global standardisation and simplification of customs procedures that, by some estimates, would cut trade costs by 10 percent for developed countries and by 14 percent for developing countries, Froman said.

One element, already agreed, is that all governments will post their customs procedures and importing rules on the WTO website. But that won't happen without a deal in Bali.

Trade facilitation is about connecting farmers and businesses to the global economy and was a central goal of every African government he had met, Froman said.

"In Geneva, trade facilitation is too often a bargaining chip in the great game of multilateral trade negotiations, a pivot point for tactical manoeuvring," he said.

Another part of a deal would be on food security, allowing developing countries to break the agreed WTO limits on agricultural subsidies while stockpiling staple crops.

That element is also still under discussion, with much focus on what Froman called a "restraint mechanism" to stop the measure distorting the global market.

Success in Bali would allow the WTO to start updating the rest of its rulebook, which predates the internet. But failure would effectively put an end to attempts at global trade reform.

"If we fail in Bali, we will lose the opportunities currently on the table," said Froman. "If we fail in Bali, many offers of flexibility for this package will disappear, for an indeterminate period of time. No nation will leave its hand open once these offers are finally slapped away."

(Reporting by Tom Miles; editing by Ralph Boulton)

About News.net

Publishing Services International Limited (PSIL) is the publisher and operator of a worldwide network of online news sites dedicated to delivering fair, accurate and relevant reporting from a variety of the world’s most trusted sources – from the biggest cities to the smallest towns.

We deliver positive and powerful messages to our readers, providing up‑to‑the‑second news that matters to the individual.

Our promise is to serve communities and individuals worldwide, delivering information that hasn’t always been available to them. We will give them back a voice – a voice that’s empowering because it is theirs – and provide a platform to communicate between themselves and the world.

We believe people are not just generic demographics; they are individuals with their own preferences and curiosities. We are about understanding these individuals, listening to them, and serving them.

We are the new pioneering spirit of news – we’re not talking to everyone, we’re talking with every one.

If you want your news, your voice, your way, on your time – we’ve got news for you.

 

FAQs

Email

If you have any questions or concerns please email us on support@news.net

Phone

  • Australia, Toll Free 1-800-983-421
  • Hong Kong, Toll Free 800-906-187
  • Singapore, Toll Free 800-852-3871
  • USA/Canada, Toll Free 1-800-830-4132

Advertise With Us

Interested in being awesome?
Contact us by email or phone.

Cancel