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Published: Wednesday December 4, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Wednesday December 4, 2013 MYT 7:29:22 AM

WTO in ‘make-or-break’ move

NUSA DUA: The WTO launched a frantic drive to salvage its floundering efforts to liberalise global trade at a summit laced with potential make-or-break implications for the body’s global influence.

WTO chief Roberto Azevedo implored trade ministers to reach a modest agreement on key trade issues on the Indonesian resort island of Bali, in hopes it will keep alive a stumbling 12-year-old effort to slash international trade barriers.

“It is there for the taking. It is a matter of political will,” Azevedo said during an appearance ahead of the four-day summit’s opening yesterday.

In an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, Azevedo called the 159-member group’s gathering “the most important World Trade Organisation meeting in years”.

“At stake is not only a package of measures to boost the global economy ... but also the role of the WTO and the multilateral trading system in global economic governance,” he said in an editorial in the Wall Street Journal.

In 2001, the WTO launched the “Doha Round” of talks in Qatar, seeking to overhaul the world trading system by setting a global framework of rules and tearing down barriers.

Various estimates say it could create tens of millions of jobs and perhaps US$1tril (RM3.2tril) in new economic activity.

But protectionist disputes between rich and poor countries – as well as the WTO’s insistence that any accord be unanimous – has made a deal elusive.

Retreating for now from Doha’s lofty aims, the WTO has instead put forward a limited “Bali package” on specific issues.

Azevedo hopes an agreement on that package can keep the Doha Round on life-support for a later push.

But the Bali measures have hit snags, most notably India’s insistence that it be allowed to offer subsidies to its millions of poor farmers to keep food prices down. — AFP

Tags / Keywords: Regional, world

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