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World Trade Organisation signs ‘ground-breaking’ deal on simpler trade

[ November 28, 2014   //   ]

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) signed what its director-general Roberto Azevedo described a ground-breaking deal on trade facilitation in Geneva on 27 November. The 160 WTO members agree to introduce new standards for customs checks and other border procedures, adding over $1 trillion to the value of world trade, according to some estimates.

The deal on trade Facilitation was part of a wider agreement that also included public stockholding for food security purposes and other issues raised by the earlier agreement reached in Bali in December 2013. However, it has its roots in the Doha Round of trade talks started in 2001, which set an ambitious target of a full multinational trade deal between all the WTO members but which rapidly became bogged down. This in turn prompted more recent negotiations on less wide-ranging trade deals such as those between the EU and individual south-east Asian countries or the Transatlantic Trade and Investment (TTIP) talks, leading many to believe that the WTO’s wide-ranging approach to trade facilitation was effectively dead. But while the deal reached on 27 November meant that the multilateral approach was back on track, Azevedo claimed.

Now the WTO members need to ratify the pact – two thirds must do so for the agreement to come into force.

Tarek Sultan, CEO of global forwarder Agility and widely recognised as being a major player in developing world markets commented that the WTO agreement “offers real hope for small businesses, farmers, job seekers and others in rich and poor countries alike. Though there’s no magic in the WTO package, the measures included would eliminate paperwork, make rules more transparent, fast-track some low-risk shipments, and create ‘single windows’ for importers and exporters to pay fees and submit documents.  

The WTO package could cut the cost of trade by up to 15%, boost the global flow of goods, accelerate economic growth and add up to 20 million new jobs, most of them in developing nations. By salvaging the agreement, the WTO gets much-needed credibility and restores viability to the multi-lateral trade negotiation process. However, the WTO’s member countries should not rest on their laurels. The global economy can’t wait another 20 years.”

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