Success of the Ninth WTO Ministerial Conference

At the Ninth WTO Ministerial Conference, held in Bali, Indonesia, fr om 3rd through 7th December 2013, ministers of trade from 159 participant countries officially adopted the first multilateral trade agreement of the last two decades.

The final document package begins with the Ministerial Declaration which recognizes Yemen as a new (160th) member of the WTO, and consolidates the series of ten decisions representing the “Bali Package”: the trade facilitation agreement designed to make easier customs transactions and eliminate "red tape'; five agreements aimed at agriculture support; and another four concerning aid to least-developed countries

The “Bali Package” is part of a much larger package that has been on the table in the Doha Round negotiations since 2001, when the WTO numbered only 142 member countries. At the Eighth WTO Ministerial Conference held in Geneva in December 2011, the Doha Round talks were officially recognized to be 'at an impasse'.

The adoption of the relevant series of decisions in Bali might not have taken place because, with India's support, the G33 group of developing countries was insisting on softening the rules designed to regulate agricultural subsidies. India's Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma declared, at the Plenary Session held on 4th December, that Delhi was regarding the issue of food security as non-negotiable. India's standpoint was that the subsidy restraint provision, in its current form, could not be accepted as the lim it of 10% was too low.

After many unofficial meetings, the conference participants agreed to a temporary mechanism in expectation of a final decision on the food security issue, to be adopted at the Eleventh WTO Ministerial Conference in 2017. The adopted agreement's text makes it obligatory for the countries implementing government stockpiling programs to ensure that they have no negative market effects on other countries' food security and world markets in general.

The documents on four major elements of support for least-developed countries were signed without introducing any amendments.  

The Ministerial Declaration states that the issues unresolved at the Ninth Conference will continue to be discussed by the relevant WTO Committees. The adoption of the “Bali Package” gives rise to hopes that further progress may be achieved in the framework of the Doha Round package.

N.P. Volovik – Head of the Foreign Trade Department