27 May, 2014, Geneva, Switzerland - UNITAR conducted a high-level briefing entitled “The WTO Bali Package: A New Hope for Multilateralism?” for trade delegates based in Geneva, especially from developing countries and Least Developed Countries (LDCs). Representatives from the International Trade Centre (ITC), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the South Centre and the World Trade Organization (WTO) were gathered around the table to discuss the outcomes of the decisions that were adopted during the 9th Ministerial Conference of the WTO in Bali, Indonesia.
Ambassador Wasescha, who is the former Ambassador of Switzerland to the WTO and EFTA, mixed his rich experience in international negotiations with his amicable sense of humour to moderate the discussion with a unique approach to engaging the 80 participants to the discussion. 40 Permanent missions in Geneva were represented among the participants, who included 10 Permanent Representatives and 10 Deputy Permanent Representatives. The distinguished panel of speakers included Ambassador Roberto Azevêdo, Mr. Rajesh Aggarwal, Ms. Aileen Kwa and Mr. Ralph Peters. The mere presence of the prominent panel bore testimony to the importance of international trade and the role of the WTO. After years of deadlock, the decisions adopted in Bali represent a breakthrough with an unprecedented agreement by all member states of the WTO and a stairway to development through international trade.
Ambassador Azevêdo described the Bali Package as, “a watershed for the history of multilateral negotiations” , which could potentially generate approximately 21 million jobs, provided an exhaustive needs assessment is conducted by developing countries by the end of 2014. The ambassador described the trade facilitation decision adopted in Bali as a multilateral deal to cut economic inefficiencies and redtapism at the borders. According to Mr. Aggarwal, not only does the Bali Package have first-order benefits for all countries, especially for LDCs, it also translates into second-order benefits in the form of increased Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).
Mr. Peters emphasized the importance of trade being reflected adequately in the post-2015 development agenda of the United Nations (UN) and the need for policy makers to bridge the gap between tariff and non-tariff measures. Finally, Ms. Kwa opined that developing countries should be allowed more leverage to pursue their development agenda, and should be allowed to explore diversity in trade policies.
Participants appreciated the coming together of the distinguished panellists. Questions concerning the funding of capacity building and technical assistance programmes for developing countries were raised within the context of the Bali Package, to which Ambassador Azevêdo suggested that given the unique architecture of the Bali agreement, dialogues between donors and LDCs will help to develop strategies to address such concerns, and that the WTO will need to play an extremely active role in organising such dialogues.
In future, UNITAR’s objective is to deliver similar trainings and briefings for trade and other delegates based on the specific needs expressed by working with Geneva-based and other relevant institutions in designing and delivering these events.
For more information about UNITAR’s Public Finance and Trade Programme, please visit: http://www.unitar.org/pft.
Photo1: The panel, from left to right: Ms. Kwa (South Centre), Ambassador Azevêdo (WTO), Ms. Fegan-Wyles (UNITAR), Mr. Peters (UNCTAD) and Mr. Aggarwal (ITC) © UNITAR
Photo 2: Ambassador Wasescha answering a question from a delegate © UNITAR
Photo 3: Participants captivated by the ongoing discussion of eminent speakers © UNITAR