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WTO 'back in business' as first global trade deal agreed

WTO 'back in business' as first global trade deal agreed
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Its chief Roberto Azevedo calls it a deal to put the “world” back in World Trade Organisation.

There were cheers in the conference hall as the agreement was confirmed in Bali, Indonesia, reducing barriers to exports for the world’s poorest nations and aiming to slash red tape at customs.

It came after Cuba dropped a threat to veto the deal over the US-embargo on the island’s goods – it later reached a compromise with the United States – and India was granted temporary relief over farming subsidies.

“What we have done here in Bali is truly extraordinary,” said the Indonesian Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan. “We have negotiated a package that will bring food security to billions of the world’s poorest. We have delivered an agreement on trade facilitation that will inject up to a trillion dollars into the world economy. And we have agreed a ground breaking suite of new initiatives to help least developed countries benefit more from the multilateral trading system.”

This is the organisation’s first global trade agreement since the WTO was created in 1995.

Analysts say the deal could create more than 20 million jobs, mostly in developing countries.

After 12 years of talks there was little hope of success, but as the latest session spilled over into an extra day the WTO chief said the entire membership came together.

The deal still needs to be approved by each member government.

It also needs to convince sceptics such as the hundreds of anti-WTO demonstrators who turned out on the streets of Bali, who accuse the organisation of imperialist practices exploiting poorer countries.

One analyst argues the deal does little other than paper over a serious dispute on food security and fails to address other issues.

Simon Evenett, professor of international trade at the University of St Gallen in Switzerland, said “dealing with the fracas on food security sucked the oxygen out of the rest of the talks”.

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