9th WTO Ministerial Conference 2013

Ministerial Conference is the topmost decision-making body of the WTO. The Ministerial Conference usually meets every two years.

In 2001-twelve years ago, negotiations took place in Doha, Qatar, to further liberalize trade rules around the world (The Doha Round). Twelve years and numerous impasses, conferences and discussions later, negotiators met on the Indonesian island of Bali in a last-ditch effort to salvage the Doha Round of world trade talks and the credibility of the World Trade Organization.

The Ministerial Conference was held in Bali, Indonesia from 3rd-6th December 2013 and attended by 159 WTO Member countries representatives. The conference was chaired by the Indonesian Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan.

This biannual conference wasn't about concluding the Doha Round. Its aim was for ministers to sign a less ambitious deal.

Highlights of Bali Declaration

The Doha Round 2001 was targeted at helping poor nations prosper through free global trade and has been a subject of negotiation ever since owing to wide disparity in opinions between developed economies and developing economies.

  • The Bali Package covered four progresses of Doha Development Agenda, including
    1. Trade facilitation
    2. Agriculture
    3. Cotton Production
    4. Issues of Least Developed Countries (LDCs)
  • All 159 members agreed on the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), which is aimed at making international trade much easier by simplifying & streamlining custom procedures and cutting transaction costs across the globe (especially developing countries).
  • According to the International Chamber of Commerce, it would add $1 trillion to the world economy and create 21 million jobs, 18 million of them in developing countries.
  • The WTO has issued a revised draft of the Bali Package which addresses India's concerns on food security. The draft contains an interim mechanism to safeguard minimum support prices to farmers against WTO caps till a permanent solution is adopted.
  • The deal allows nations such as India (Mostly developing nations where agriculture is main economic activity and they export mostly agricultural items) to fix a Minimum Support Price (MSP) for farm produce and to sell staple grains to the poor at subsidized rates.
  • The WTO agreement on agriculture would allow countries to provide subsidy on staple food crops without any threat of punitive action. The WTO has given permission to all countries to store food grains to meet contingency requirements.
  • This success at Bali has strengthened WTO's position as a trade negotiation forum while some countries are indulged in making a Trans Pacific Partnership and a Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, outside the WTO framework.
  • According to US Trade Representative Michael Froman, “in its nearly 20-year history, the WTO has never once produced a new, fully multilateral trade agreement.”
  • Yemen (a country), who was striving to become member of WTO since last 13 years, has officially become 160th member of World Trade Organization (WTO). Yemen relies on oil and gas exports for most of its foreign currency dealings, but frequent attacks on oil installations, main pipeline etc. Deprive the government of vital revenue.
  • The Bali declaration also included five draft agreements on TRIPS Non-violation and situation complaints, work program on electronic commerce, work program on small economies, aid for trade and trade and transfer of technology.