A deal to boost global trade has been approved by the World Trade
Organization's 159 member economies for the first time in nearly two
WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo
shed tears during the summit's closing ceremony Saturday as he thanked
host nation Indonesia and his wife, saying "for the first time in
history, the WTO has finally delivered" on large scale negotiations.
Trade ministers had come to the four-day WTO meeting
on the resort island of Bali with little hope that an agreement would be
The talks were threatened at the
eleventh hour when Cuba objected to removal of a reference to the
decades-long U.S. trade embargo that Cuba wants lifted.
India had also been an obstacle because of its vociferous
objections to provisions that might endanger grain subsidies aimed at
ensuring its poor get enough to eat. WTO members gave developing nations
a temporary dispensation from subsidy limits, shelving the issue for
negotiations at a later time.
The centerpiece of
the agreement reached in Bali was measures to ease barriers to trade by
simplifying customs procedures and making them more transparent.
The deal could boost global trade by $1 trillion over
time and also keeps alive the WTO's broader Doha Round of trade
negotiations, sometimes known as the development round because of
sweeping changes in regulations, taxes and subsidies that would benefit
low income countries.
The idea is that if all
countries play by the same trade rules, then all countries, rich or
poor, will benefit. But some critics say WTO rules may hinder countries
from setting their own priorities in environmental protection, worker
rights, food security and other areas. And they say sudden reductions in
import tariffs can wipe out industries, causing job losses in rich and
The WTO was formed in January
1995 after the Uruguay Round trade negotiations spanning 1986-1994 were
completed. Apart from being a forum for world trade talks, it arbitrates
trade disputes between member countries.