The World Trade Organization has once again failed to deliver a global trade pact, its director-general, Roberto Azevedo, announced Tuesday.
The WTO was trying to ink a “low hanging fruit” deal carved out of the failed Doha Round of trade talks over the past decade. The goal was to have a deal trade ministers could sign in Bali, Indonesia, next week.
“The bad news, however, is that over the last few days, we stopped making the tough political calls. And this prevented us from getting to the finish line. We are indeed close, but not quite there,” Azevedo said at a WTO meeting in Geneva after an all-night negotiating session.
The Bali deal on the table would have three parts: facilitating trade by reducing customs regulations and helping poor countries upgrade ports; lowering duties for goods from the world’s least developed countries; and instituting new rules on agriculture.
“What remains to be negotiated is not something that can be easily managed by the ministers in Bali,” Azevedo said, indicating ministers will not be able to resolve all the technical issues in the draft text next week after ambassadors and staff failed to do so this week.
“Holding negotiations in the short time we'll have in Bali would be simply impractical with over 100 ministers around the table. I don’t believe that small negotiating meetings behind locked doors would do the trick either,” he said.
While trade facilitation may be nearly complete, WTO members had hoped to have a three-part package. Sticking points appeared to involve the U.S. embargo of Cuba and Indian demands to buy up and stockpile commodities to prepare for disasters.
“At this point in time we cannot tell the world that we've delivered,” Azevedo said.