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SE Asia

Commerce ministers approve landmark WTO trade deal

Published on Dec 7, 2013 11:51 AM
Director-General Roberto Azevedo is comforted by Conference Chairman Gita Wirjawan, as he turns emotional speaking about the support he received from his wife throughout the long nights of negotiations, during the closing ceremony of the ninth World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference in Nusa Dua, Bali, on Dec 7, 2013. Commerce ministers on Saturday approved a trade deal securing a new lease on life for the WTO which could give a $1 trillion (S$1.25 trillion) boost to the global economy. -- PHOTO: REUTERS 

NUSA DUA (AFP) - Commerce ministers on Saturday approved a trade deal securing a new lease on life for the World Trade Organization which could give a $1 trillion (S$1.25 trillion) boost to the global economy.

"It is so agreed,” Indonesian Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan told delegates at a WTO conference in Bali following tough negotiations that stretched into the early morning hours.

The more than four days of talks resulted in the first global agreement struck by the Geneva-based body since its 1995 founding.

The accord includes commitments to facilitate trade by simplifying customs procedures, which some economists have said could give a US$1 trillion jolt to the world economy.

“For the first time in our history, the WTO has truly delivered,” an exhausted-looking WTO director-general Roberto Azevedo told a closing ceremony.

The agreement falls far short of the WTO’s lofty but elusive vision of tearing down trade barriers around the world through its frustrating,12-year-old Doha Round of talks.

But Mr Azevedo said it could have important symbolic value for the trade body’s hopes of kick-starting Doha. “The decisions we have taken here are an important stepping-stone toward the completion of the Doha Round,” he said.

Mr Azevedo has expressed concern over the rise of alternative regional trading pacts that he fears could render the WTO obsolete if the Geneva-based body did not start producing major worldwide agreements.