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Midnight Deal in Bali

Posted on 7 December 2013

IBON International Update  #16 - WTO

BALI, 7 December 2013 – The Ninth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization concluded a new trade deal after intensive consultations almost round the clock from Wednesday 4 December until the early hours of Friday 6 December, followed by overnight meetings of heads of all delegations the following night. 
 
The Bali trade deal is the first multilateral agreement reached in almost 20 years of WTO history.  World leaders are now celebrating the Bali agreement for restoring confidence in the WTO after over a decade of failed ministerials. 
 
WTO director-general Roberto Azevedo shed tears during the summit's closing ceremony on Saturday, a day after its scheduled conclusion.  “We did it!” said Indonesia’s Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan, who chaired the conference.
 
European Union President Jose Manuel Barroso said "I'm delighted at the news this morning of the global trade deal in Bali. This will give a real boost to the global economy."
 
“The WTO has entered a new era,” remarked U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman.  He said that the trade facilitation part of the agreement will be a major boost to U.S. small exporters trying to navigate complex customs rules abroad.
 
Azevedo affirms this, saying "We're back in business … Bali is just the beginning."
 
Many believed the Ministerial was headed for another collapse especially after India declared that its food security was non-negotiable.  It made vociferous objections to provisions that might endanger grain subsidies program mandated by its new food security bill.  In the end India agreed to an interim Peace Clause that it says would protect existing food stockholding programs of developing countries from legal challenge under the WTO’s agreement on agriculture until a more permanent solution is agreed.
 
At the 11th hour, Cuba objected to removal of a reference to the decades-long US trade embargo that the small Caribbean island-nation wants lifted.  Together with Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, Cuba also expressed serious reservations about serious imbalances in the Bali package in favor of richer countries.  After negotiations that lasted until the wee hours of the morning of December 6, a compromise was struck in the form of a sentence upholding the principle of non-discrimination in goods in transit added to the final declaration.
 
On the other hand, civil society groups have been mostly critical of the Bali Deal.
 
The Our World Is Not For Sale (OWINFS) network says the Peace Clause agreed only applies to existing Food Security programs, leaving out poor countries that might be in the process of developing such programs.   
 
The APWLD says that “while we endorse the principle that governments should have the autonomous power to manage their own food security policies, without threats and bullying from other countries, we don’t think this should be gained in a trade deal that opens up markets through increased ‘trade facilitation’.”
 
The OWINFS network says the deal on Trade Facilitation was shamelessly over-hyped in the media in terms of claimed economic gains and that it represents more of the same failed
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