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  • Posted December 5, 2013 by

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    Yemen inducted into WTO

    Director-General Roberto Azevêdo told WTO ministers on 4 December 2013 that he would hold consultations — as urged by a large number of them — in the search for agreement on the set of issues known as the “Bali package”.

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    > Bali Ministerial Conference 2013
    > Briefing notes

    He was speaking at the end of an informal meeting of heads of delegations on the second day of the Bali Ministerial Conference, when ministers also agreed to accept Yemen as a new member — it will officially join the WTO 30 days after it has ratified the membership deal.

    Many of the 55 speakers had urged Mr Azevêdo to work with those members that have serious concerns about the few remaining points that are unresolved, so that the conference can conclude with a deal on trade facilitation (cutting red tape and streamlining customs and port procedures), four agricultural issues and a set of topics on developing and least developed countries.

    Several said a deal has to be struck in Bali for the economic and development benefits of the deal itself and for the credibility of the WTO. Many least-developed and developing countries also said that they would lose if a package is not agreed because of benefits they would gain.

    Many members argued that leaving the deal to be concluded in Geneva after the conference would not work since the sticking points could not be resolved in Geneva in the weeks and months before the conference – the remaining issues are political and need ministers’ direct input, they said.

    Some members reminded Mr Azevêdo that he had said the conference would not be for negotiation. They said negotiations should be fully transparent, with all members involved and no talks in small groups. If that does not produce agreement then the conference should agree on issues for least developed countries, with the other topics negotiated later.

    Some also called the package “imbalanced”, in their view because the proposed trade facilitation deal would require developing countries to make commitments while the proposed agreements on agriculture and development would be promises that countries would do their best, but falling short of legal commitments.

    Others called for flexibility so that agreement can be reached. “We can do this job here and now, so let’s do it,” said one. Several said that the work after Bali should focus on concluding the rest of the Doha Round negotiations.

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