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WTO Talks on Trade Facilitation Still Bogged Down

Thursday, October 17, 2013
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

A brief burst of optimism in September that World Trade Organization members would be able to conclude a limited package of trade liberalization measures by the end of this year appears to have faded amid continuing disagreements in October. The renewed enthusiasm coincided with Brazil’s Roberto Azevedo taking over from France’s Pascal Lamy as WTO chief, and several weeks into his tenure Azevedo said the dynamic of the talks had “changed profoundly.” On Oct. 14, however, Azevedo told members that unless they “show additional flexibility and work in a spirit of compromise” they will be unable to finalize an agreement by the time of the WTO ministerial meeting set for early December in Bali, Indonesia.

Press reports indicate that there has been particular difficulty finding a way forward on trade facilitation. Guatemalan WTO ambassador Eduardo Sperisen-Yurt, who is leading the talks on this issue, said Oct. 14 that negotiators have made little to no progress on difficult topics such as the nature of the commitments to be made and the flexibility that developing countries should have concerning which of these commitments they implement and when. Some reports blame the lack of progress on the fact that negotiators are continuing to get bogged down in relatively unimportant details.

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