WTO 2012-2015

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World Trade Organization (WTO)
WTO News on Wednesday-night.com

The GATT years: from Havana to Marrakesh
The WTO’s creation on 1 January 1995 marked the biggest reform of international trade since after the Second World War. It also brought to reality — in an updated form — the failed attempt in 1948 to create an International Trade Organization.
Much of the history of those 47 years was written in Geneva. But it also traces a journey that spanned the continents, from that hesitant start in 1948 in Havana (Cuba), via Annecy (France), Torquay (UK), Tokyo (Japan), Punta del Este (Uruguay), Montreal (Canada), Brussels (Belgium) and finally to Marrakesh (Morocco) in 1994. During that period, the trading system came under GATT, salvaged from the aborted attempt to create the ITO. GATT helped establish a strong and prosperous multilateral trading system that became more and more liberal through rounds of trade negotiations. But by the 1980s the system needed a thorough overhaul. This led to the Uruguay Round, and ultimately to the WTO.

WTO members secure “historic” Nairobi Package for Africa and the world
(WTO) The Nairobi Package contains a series of six Ministerial Decisions on agriculture, cotton and issues related to least-developed countries. These include a commitment to abolish export subsidies for farm exports, which Director-General Roberto Azevêdo hailed as the “most significant outcome on agriculture” in the organization’s 20-year history.
The other agricultural decisions cover public stockholding for food security purposes, a special safeguard mechanism for developing countries, and measures related to cotton. Decisions were also made regarding preferential treatment for least developed countries (LDCs) in the area of services and the criteria for determining whether exports from LDCs may benefit from trade preferences.
“Two years ago in Bali we did something that the WTO had never done before — we delivered major, multilaterally-negotiated outcomes,” DG Azevêdo declared. “This week, here in Nairobi, we saw those same qualities at work. And today, once again, we delivered.”
The WTO’s Tenth Ministerial Conference was held in Nairobi, Kenya, from 15 to 19 December 2015, the first such meeting hosted by an African nation. The Conference was chaired by Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Amina Mohamed.
WTO members concluded their Tenth Ministerial Conference in Nairobi on 19 December by securing an historic agreement on a series of trade initiatives. The “Nairobi Package” pays fitting tribute to the Conference host, Kenya, by delivering commitments that will benefit in particular the organization’s poorest members.
World Trade Organization strikes ‘historic’ farming subsidy deal
Countries in the World Trade Organization (WTO) have agreed to abolish subsidies on farming exports.
Developed countries agreed to stop the subsidies immediately and developing nations must follow by the end of 2018.
The WTO, which represents 162 countries, called it “the most significant outcome on agriculture” since the body’s foundation in 1995.
But longstanding talks on other trade barriers were left unresolved at the end of the summit in Kenya.
Removing agriculture export subsidies is intended to help farmers in poorer countries to compete more fairly.
15 December
The World Trade Organization tries to remain relevant. Attendees in Nairobi are expected to conclude the largely stalled Doha round of talks, aimed at making globalization work better for developing nations. If the negotiations fail, the WTO’s relevance will suffer.
24 July
WTO strikes ‘landmark’ IT trade deal
The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has struck a “landmark” deal to cut tariffs on $1.3 trn (£838bn) worth of technology products.
The deal will update the 18-year-old IT Agreement and add 200 products to the zero tariff list.
It is expected to give a boost to producers of goods ranging from video games to medical equipment.
The WTO says the sum is equal to global trade in iron, steel, textiles and clothing combined.
“Today’s agreement is a landmark,” said WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo.
“Eliminating tariffs on trade of this magnitude will have a huge impact,” he continued.
“It will support lower prices – including in many other sectors that use IT products as inputs – it will create jobs and it will help to boost GDP growth around the world.”
The final technical details will be worked out until December.
26 May
Global trade talks can be revived, says WTO head
As the World Trade Organisation (WTO) marks its 20th year in existence, the global body is at a tipping point. The so called Doha round of global trade negotiations has been deadlocked since 2008, just as an increasing number of regional and bilateral trade deals are making progress.
Now the countdown has begun to try to get Doha restarted and the head of the WTO says he is confident that, finally, a deal can be done.


27 November
After 19 years of trying, the World Trade Organization delivers a world trade deal.
The 160-member body agreed to overhaul global customs procedures. Mundane as that sounds, some economists say it could result in $1 trillion in new economic activity and 21 million new jobs.
WTO deal paves way for implementing pact
Ending months of deadlock, the World Trade Organisation has agreed to implement the first global trade reform agreement in its 19-year-history.
The deal means the 160-member global trade body can begin putting into action a landmark deal reached in Bali in late 2013 to overhaul global customs procedures.
Economists have estimated the measures could help create $US1.0 trillion ($A1.08 trillion) in economic activity and 21 million jobs worldwide.
“We are back on track!” an ebullient WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo told reporters.
“We have renewed the commitment to the multilateral system,” he added.
The member states adopted two texts presented on Monday: the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) protocol, aimed at streamlining global customs procedures, and one on the management of food stockpiles.
29 May
Less is More: Reforming the WTO
By Brett House
(OpenCanada) Simpler, smaller, narrower and softer: the agenda for the WTO laid out above is all of these things and it might, to some, seem a rather defeatist line. But it’s also a case in which less is almost certainly more: more prioritization in the Organization’s work program, more focus in its negotiations, more nimbleness in its decision-making, and more engagement with complementary venues that can support the WTO’s work. Far from a scaling back, this four-point agenda represents a strategy to enhance the centrality of the WTO in the pursuit of greater openness between countries. Sticking to a conservative “hard-core” course of business as usual would be clearly inimical to the long-term health of the Organization. In a diverse, multi-polar world, we need a range of different ways to get free trade “eggs” into our collective liberalization basket. Some will be hard boiled, some will be soft boiled, but either way, they’ll produce gains for the global economy.
A version of this piece was published by the Salzburg Global Seminar on May 22, 2014.(See below)
Brett House: “We need hard and soft approaches to trade liberalization”
Salzburg Global Fellow advocates for not putting all the trade eggs in the WTO basket
The Salzburg Global Seminar session New Dynamics in Global Trade Architecture: The WTO, G20 and Regional Trade Agreements met on the heels of the provisional end in December of negotiations under the 9th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) at Bali. The understandings on trade facilitation reached at Bali have breathed a new sense of possibility into the WTO’s multilateral trade negotiation processes. They also underscore that the WTO’s legalistic, comprehensive and consensus-driven procedures need to be supplemented by softer approaches that, while not legally binding nor fully inclusive, can help crystallize political support and stimulate concerted action for freer international trade.
While Bali undoubtedly marked a fresh achievement and carries substantial positive demonstration effects for the multilateral system, considered views on the long-term import of the Bali discussions are mixed. For some, Bali marks the beginning of a feasible path to rescue the WTO’s 12-year Doha Development Agenda (DDA) negotiating round from a longstanding stupor. It is a tangible step that shows the system works and that the DDA can be brought to a conclusion, perhaps in piece-meal steps.
For others, Bali is a new indicator of just how impaired the WTO’s fully inclusive, consensus-based negotiating processes have become. It’s no exaggeration to say that finding common ground on trade facilitation is almost the least that WTO Members could have done to qualify Bali as a success. Trade facilitation is not one of the DDA’s core issues, but it is amongst the more easily accessible of low-hanging policy fruits. In fact, many aspects of the Bali package had already been implemented unilaterally by WTO Members (WTO 2013). Some aspects of trade facilitation aren’t even narrowly about trade: they’re more akin to international development assistance and capacity building.
12 April
Not much life left in the WTO
The World Trade Organization is turning 20. But with the chasm between its industrial and developing member states, it won’t survive much longer after this anniversary, says DW’s Rolf Wenkel.
(Deutsche Welle (DW)) It took almost 20 years to reach an acceptable conclusion via last year’s famous Bali compromise. Without going into too much detail: According to most experts, developing nations benefit the least from the new agreements. And that’s why it’s not hard to predict that the Doha Round will probably have been the WTO’s last.
That’s because agreements in the negotiation rounds and in the WTO’s organizational structure can only be reached by a unanimous vote, just like in all the other UN organizations. This used to make sense; it was supposed to put pressure on the participants to agree, to reach a compromise. But now the unanimity rule has become a boomerang: There is always a member that will refuse everything; a nation that will block all action in the WTO.
To add a bit of melodrama to the proceedings, it’s possible the desperate efforts in Bali heralded the WTO’s final hour. But there may be life in the old dog yet. Developing nations – and the 640 employees in Geneva – can only hope so.
20 February
American trade policy
How to make the world $600 billion poorer
Barack Obama’s unwillingness to fight for free trade is an expensive mistake
(The Economist) IN JULY 2008 Barack Obama, then a candidate for the presidency, declared before an adoring crowd in Berlin that “true partnership and true progress [require] constant work and sustained sacrifice.” So it is with free trade. If not championed by leaders who understand its broad benefits, it will constantly be eroded by narrow economic nationalism. Mr Obama now appears to be surrendering to protectionists within his own party. If he cannot drag Democrats back to their senses, the world will lose its best opportunity in two decades for a burst of liberalisation. It will also be a signal that America is giving up its role as defender of an open global economy in the same way that Mr Obama has retreated in foreign policy.
Mr Obama did little to promote free trade during his first term, but has seemed bolder in his second. He launched America into ambitious new deals with large Pacific economies and the European Union, breathing new life into global trade talks. Momentum built up; the “constant work and sacrifice” paid dividends. Members of the World Trade Organisation agreed on a package of trade reforms in December—the first truly multilateral deal in the organisation’s 20-year history. Diplomats credit the White House’s new resolve for helping to bring stubborn parties to the table. Progress suddenly seemed possible in other areas, such as liberalising trade in services and information technology, and reducing barriers to the exchange of “environmental goods and services”, which would make it cheaper to curb carbon emissions.
The hitch is that Congress must approve trade agreements. Previous presidents had the advantage of “fast-track” trade promotion authority, which let them present deals to Congress for a simple yes or no vote. Without it, lawmakers can wreck carefully negotiated deals with toxic amendments. No country would engage in serious talks with America under such circumstances. Fast-track is therefore essential—and elusive. Congress last granted it in 2002; it expired in 2007. The Obama administration blithely asserted that Congress would renew it, but many lawmakers, primarily Democrats, have signed letters opposing it. Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, has all but ruled out a vote this year. And on February 14th Joe Biden, the vice-president, told a gathering of Democratic leaders that he understood their opposition. The White House appears to have given up with scarcely a fight. A fast-track vote before November’s mid-term elections seems unlikely (see article).
28 January
Major trade powers pledge free trade in green goods
(Planet Ark) The world’s biggest trading powers pledged on Friday to work toward a global agreement on free trade in environmental goods, but they gave no timeline for talks intended to support the fight against climate change.
The United States, European Union, China, Japan and several other developed economies said in a joint statement that the agreement would take effect once there is participation by a critical mass of members of the World Trade Organization.
That gets around the WTO’s requirement for unanimity on trade deals. The initiative is in line with new WTO chief Roberto Azevedo’s drive to break a decade-old deadlock in world trade negotiations by first tackling the most promising areas for agreement.
Last month, the WTO reached its first trade reform agreement at talks in Bali, potentially adding hundreds of billions of dollars to the global economy.
The WTO estimates that the global market in green goods, technologies and services – ranging from solar panels to wind turbines and water recycling plants – at some $1.4 trillion.


WTO Annual Report 2013

World Trade Report 2013
Fast-changing nature of world trade poses new policy challenges, report says
The future of world trade, and the global trading system, will be shaped by a range of economic, political and social factors, including technological innovation, shifts in production and consumption patterns, and demographic change, according to the 2013 World Trade Report published by the WTO on 18 July 2013. Director-General Pascal Lamy said: “One element clearly stands out in the Report, and that is the importance of trade for development”. (18 July 2013)

7 December
WTO reaches ‘historic’ trade deal in Bali
Agreement approved by ministers seeks to lower trade barriers but critics fear hit to job
The deal falls far short of WTO’s vision of dismantling global trade barriers through the 12-year-old Doha Round of talks, but it is seen as an important step in that direction. … The pact includes commitments to facilitate trade by simplifying customs procedures.
The Washington-based Peterson Institute for International Economics estimated in a report this year the customs measures could create $1 trillion in economic activity and 21 million jobs if properly implemented (PDF).
WTO officials have conceded, however, that uncertainty surrounds how effectively the measures will be implemented, especially in less developed countries.
WTO agreement condemned as deal for corporations, not world’s poor
First global trade deal in 20 years to boost world commerce ‘favours big business at the expense of developing countries’
(The Guardian) At the heart of the agreement were measures to ease barriers to trade by reducing import duties, simplifying customs procedures and making those procedures more transparent to end years of corruption at ports and border controls.
Tense negotiations in recent weeks ahead of the meeting followed 20 years of bitter disputes as developing countries attempted to protect their fledgling agricultural and industrial sectors while allowing them access to markets in the rich west. …
But the World Development Movement (WDM) warned it was “an agreement for transnational corporations, not the world’s poor”.
Nick Dearden, director of the WDM, said: “On the positive side, developing countries have forced concessions on to the pro-corporate agenda of the US and EU. However, those concessions are only the minimum necessary to get through what remains a deal for corporations, not for the world’s poor.
“Here in Bali, social movements, trade unions and campaign groups have supported the efforts of developing countries to get a deal which moves the agenda away from a pro-corporate charter and towards something that asserts the rights and needs of the majority of the world’s population,” he said.
“The aggressive stance of the US and EU means that we have moved only a little, and shows again that the WTO can never be a forum for creating a just and equal global economic system.”
2 December
Bali talks to decide fate of WTO
(Reuters) – Crisis is the natural state of world trade negotiations. But this week will be different. Ministers meeting in the Indonesian resort of Bali from Tuesday until Friday will decide the fate of the World Trade Organization, with two possible outcomes: a global trade agreement, the first since the WTO was created in 1995, or a failure that kills off the Doha round of trade talks and casts the WTO into obsolescence.
The 159 WTO members have pushed the crisis to the brink by failing to finalize the text of a deal in Geneva, leaving a Swiss cheese of a draft after marathon talks that WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo finally halted at 7 a.m. last Monday. Azevedo had repeatedly said the text must be settled in Geneva and there could be no negotiations in Bali. Ministers indulging in political point-scoring and rhetorical grandstanding are thought unlikely to succeed where their Geneva-based trade negotiators have failed. …
Supporters say the deal would be felt globally, with most impact in the poorest countries, since it would set standards for handling the cross-border shipment of goods, making customs authorities help instead of hindering business. Estimates of the value to the world economy vary, with some as high as $1 trillion. Experts say it would be much more important than abolishing import tariffs globally, since bureaucracy and opaque rules are a bigger brake on trade.
Bayu Krisnamurthi, Indonesia’s deputy trade minister, said last Wednesday that there were only four issues to be settled. Negotiators say Argentina and Cuba are among those with issues outstanding, but that the key stumbling block is India.
4 July
Joseph E. Stiglitz: The Free-Trade Charade (Project Syndicate) Though nothing has come of the World Trade Organization’s Doha Development Round of global trade negotiations since they were launched almost a dozen years ago, another round of talks is in the works. But this time the negotiations will not be held on a global, multilateral basis; rather, two huge regional agreements – one transpacific, and the other transatlantic – are to be negotiated. Are the coming talks likely to be more successful?

This illustration is by Margaret Scott and comes from <a href="http://www.newsart.com">NewsArt.com</a>, and is the property of the NewsArt organization and of its artist. Reproducing this image is a violation of copyright law.
Illustration by Margaret Scott

The Doha Round was torpedoed by the United States’ refusal to eliminate agricultural subsidies – a sine qua non for any true development round, given that 70% of those in the developing world depend on agriculture directly or indirectly. The US position was truly breathtaking, given that the WTO had already judged that America’s cotton subsidies – paid to fewer than 25,000 rich farmers – were illegal. America’s response was to bribe Brazil, which had brought the complaint, not to pursue the matter further, leaving in the lurch millions of poor cotton farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa and India, who suffer from depressed prices because of America’s largesse to its wealthy farmers. Given this recent history, it now seems clear that the negotiations to create a free-trade area between the US and Europe, and another between the US and much of the Pacific (except for China), are not about establishing a true free-trade system. Instead, the goal is a managed trade regime – managed, that is, to serve the special interests that have long dominated trade policy in the West.

16 May

Global trade containers Photo credit: Reuters

The humble hero Containers have been more important for globalisation than freer trade
(The Economist) Over time all this reshaped global trade. Ports became bigger and their number smaller. More types of goods could be traded economically. Speed and reliability of shipping enabled just-in-time production, which in turn allowed firms to grow leaner and more responsive to markets as even distant suppliers could now provide wares quickly and on schedule. International supply chains also grew more intricate and inclusive. This helped accelerate industrialisation in emerging economies such as China, according to Richard Baldwin, an economist at the Graduate Institute of Geneva. Trade links enabled developing economies simply to join existing supply chains rather than build an entire industry from the ground up. But for those connections, the Chinese miracle might have been much less miraculous. Not only has the container been more important than past trade negotiations—its lessons ought also to focus minds at future talks. When governments meet at the WTO’s December conference in Bali they should make a special effort in what is called “trade facilitation”—efforts to boost efficiency at customs through regulatory harmonisation and better infrastructure. By some estimates, a 50% improvement in these areas could mean benefits as big as the elimination of all remaining tariffs. This would not be a glamorous outcome, but the big ones seldom are.
10 May
Taking Global Trade for Granted
With so many problems facing the WTO, it’s easy to overlook the organization’s sucesses
(OpenCanada.org) Trade barriers are historically low, trade rules are working, and world trade continues to expand. How to keep countries engaged in the WTO – and rally enthusiasm for freer global trade – when the job seems mostly done? The GATT, the WTO’s predecessor, was a response to the economic “failures” of the 1930s – roller-coaster exchange rates, beggar-thy-neighbour trade policies, hostile regional blocs – which did so much to fuel the outbreak of the Second World War. Together with the IMF and the World Bank, the multilateral trading system was based on the idea that a durable world peace could only be constructed on the foundations of an open, integrated, and prosperous world economy. The system has succeeded beyond its architects’ wildest imaginations. Whereas tariffs averaged a colossal 44 per cent after the war, choking international trade and balkanizing the world economy, today over half of all exports – from coal to computer chips – face no tariffs, while another third contend with “nuisance tariffs” of just 2 or 3 per cent.
WTO chief urged to reach out to small nations (Emerging Markets) The decision by a majority of the members of the World Trade Organization to oppose the United States and European Union and back Brazil’s Roberto Azevedo as its new director general shows the era of transatlantic stitch-up for key global jobs is over, experts said. The final leg of the five-month race for the job ended this week when Azevedo beat Herminio Blanco, the former Mexican trade minister who had received the support of Washington and Brussels. “Although Blanco is closer to any free trader’s heart, if he’d won with US and EU support it might have polarized the WTO membership,” said one trade expert who asked not be named. “The days of transatlantic stitch ups are over.”
7 May
Azevedo looks to resurrect WTO with patient diplomacy
(Reuters) – Roberto Azevedo, picked on Tuesday to head the World Trade Organization, is in every respect the quintessential Brazilian diplomat: a well-spoken, competent and smooth negotiator with a knack for wooing adversaries into his corner. A career diplomat with two decades of experience dealing with trade disputes, Azevedo will need those qualities more than ever to bridge the gap between developed and developing nations if he wants to reboot stalled global trade negotiations and breathe new life into the Geneva-based WTO. It is a huge task. With the global economy still struggling, protectionism is on the rise and faith in free trade – and the WTO itself – is running low in many countries.
30 April
The Next Head of the WTO? Choose Wisely.
It’s time to put someone from the BRICS in charge of the world’s leading trade body. (Foreign Policy) In a historic first, the next leader of the World Trade Organization will hail from Latin America. A field of nine candidates has now been winnowed down to two, one from Mexico and one from Brazil, meaning that, at a crucial moment in the history of the international trading system, the leader of the central organization for resolving global trade differences and shaping future agreements will come from the emerging part of the Western Hemisphere. … According to trade-community insiders in Washington and around the world with whom I have spoken over the past few days, Blanco is seen as the preferred candidate of the United States and much of what might be described as the traditional or old-school trade establishment. Azevedo, on the other hand, appears to have deeper support among the BRICs and among many of the other representatives of the emerging world.

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