WTO deal still possible but business must push governments to bridge remaining gaps
Following World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Roberto Azevedo’s signal yesterday that the formal WTO negotiating process had reached a conclusion for the time being, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) is calling on WTO members to spare no effort and to demonstrate the political will needed to achieve a trade facilitation agreement in time for the Bali Ministerial Conference next week.
“This is a clarion call for global business to continue urging WTO member governments and trade ministers to engage with each other informally, and bridge remaining gaps in order to reach a trade facilitation agreement in Bali next week,” said ICC Secretary General Jean-Guy Carrier. “ICC’s global network – comprising over 6.5 million companies around the world – will keep pushing WTO members to reach agreement before the end of the Bali Ministerial.”
Mr Azevedo himself indicated in his speech to WTO members on Tuesday that business involvement has been essential to influencing governments in the current negotiations.
ICC Chairman Harold (Terry) McGraw said: “This is a critical moment in the WTO negotiation process and it is all the more important for business to stay engaged and keep pushing for an agreement. A deal can still be done. According to a recent study commissioned by ICC, the WTO trade facilitation agreement could boost global GDP by US$960 billion annually and increase exports of developing countries by US$570 billion and of developed countries by US$475 billion. It would also create 18 million jobs in developing countries and 3 million in developed countries.”
Victor K. Fung, Chairman of ICC’s World Trade Agenda initiative added: “The prospect of such significant benefits to the world economy compels WTO members and trade ministers to talk to each other and compels business to urge them to conclude a substantive agreement. The stakes are very high – not only in terms of the benefits for the world economy but also for sustaining the credibility of the WTO and multilateral negotiations.”
Mr Carrier said: “The end of the formal negotiations in Geneva is nothing new. Neither is the start of a new phase of intensive talks between members over the next few days. The Uruguay Round negotiations went down to a tense finish in 1994 after eight years of talks. Agreement to launch the Doha Round took five years to develop and only occurred through last-minute bargaining between key players during all-night sessions at the Doha WTO Ministerial Conference in 2001.”
For its part, ICC will be steadfast in the pursuit of its campaign to conclude a trade facilitation agreement in time for Bali. Business is convinced that such a deal will encourage cross-border trade and investment, economic growth and job creation worldwide, for all countries at all levels of economic development, and will be of particular benefit to developing countries and small- and medium-sized enterprises in these countries.
Leading an international business delegation in Bali, ICC will host a roundtable on the morning of the opening of the ministerial conference, to bring together selected trade ministers and CEOs to encourage a successful outcome.