Marathon World Trade Organisation talks likely to leave questions open for ministers : worldleaks
Marathon talks on the WTO’s first-ever worldwide trade reform went down to the wire in the early hours of Monday, with treaters waiting to leave the final touches to a ministerial meeting early next month.
Without full agreement on a draft text in Geneva, the fate of the highly technical deal, which would streamline customs processes and speed up trade around the world, could hang on political wrangling among ministers attending the WTO’s biennal conference in Bali.
The International Chamber of Commerce says the deal would add $960 billion (591.31 billion pounds) to the world economy and create 21 million jobs, 18 million of them in developing countries. It would also revive confidence in the WTO as a forum for trade negotiations.
The suggested deal includes elements of the Doha round of trade talks, which began in 2001 but repeatedly failed to develop an agreement over the subsequent decade.
WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo has pushed diplomats from the 159 member countries through a punishing 10 weeks of talks, and vowed to ran up the deal in Geneva and not leave any negotiations for ministers to finish in Bali.
Azevedo said on Friday he was hopeful of a deal by the end of the weekend.
People involved in the talks said much progress had been made and a deal was really close, but the pace during the weekend sessions was glacial at times.
“We spent nine hours on one paragraph this morning. Once again, a near-death experience,” one participant said late on Sunday.
Azevedo will speak the ambassadors at a meeting of the WTO’s General Council on Tuesday, which will formally submit their work to the ministerial conference. Sending a finished draft would have left little for the ministers to do but rubber-stamp the deal in Bali.
But people involved in the talks said there were too many issues still left unsettled, including an Indian crop stockpiling plan that is exempt from WTO subsidy rules and a challenge to the U.S. economic embargo on Cuba.
Other issues still being argued were Turkey’s concerns about new rules governing transit and Central American resistance to demands to stop using customs brokers to handle trade.
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