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WTO Chief Highlights Problem Areas as Bali Deadline Nears

Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

World Trade Organization Director-General Roberto Azevedo told WTO members Nov. 12 that negotiations toward an agreement on trade facilitation, agriculture and developing country concerns will continue an additional week through Nov. 15. Members are working to finalize an agreement in time for the WTO’s ministerial meeting in Bali, Indonesia, in early December, and Azevedo said that to meet that goal “we must tie up the package once and for all in the next few days.”

In updating WTO members on the state of the negotiations Azevedo said that “despite [the] big icebergs that we have ahead of us, I think that this ship may well yet make the crossing.” On trade facilitation, he pointed out that the text on the customs cooperation section has been closed but that “there remain some very hard nuts to crack” in other areas. On development, agreement has been reached on preferential rules of origin and the services waiver for least-developed countries. Though work remains on cotton, duty-free/quota-free treatment and the monitoring mechanism, progress is being made and members are showing flexibility. On agriculture, there has been “constructive engagement” and “a genuine desire to find a solution” on the issue of stockpiling for food security.

Azevedo was less optimistic, however, on two other agricultural issues. “Despite some genuine attempts at convergence” on the administration of tariff-rate quotas, he said, “no material progress has been achieved,” and “I am beginning to wonder what we could do even if we had more time to try.” He also expressed concern about export competition, stating that while there has been some progress on a number of aspects, “there is still the central issue of whether some kind of down payment could be required – or, if not, what kind of tangible commitment could be put in place towards making concrete progress in the near future.”

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