By Erik Wasson - 12/08/13 09:46 AM EST
Obama hails new WTO Bali trade deal
President Obama on Sunday hailed the completion a day earlier of a new World Trade Organization trade deal.
The Bali agreement on customs, agricultural subsidies and aid for poor nations is the first WTO trade deal since the organization started in 1995.
"This new deal, and particularly the new trade facilitation agreement, will eliminate red tape and bureaucratic delay for goods shipped around the globe. Small businesses will be among the biggest winners, since they encounter the greatest difficulties in navigating the current system," Obama said.
He noted that the deal could bring hundreds of billions in economic benefits.
The Bali agreement captures some of the low-hanging fruit of the failed Doha round of trade talks that were launched in 2001. The deal does not include ambitious efforts to end tariff and nontariff barriers to agricultural goods, industrial products, services or immigration. It also does not include a deal on duty-free sales of high-tech goods that some had seen as possible.
But overall, the agreement could revive the WTO. The Geneva organization has worked as a trade court enforcing the last Uruguay Round of trade accords, but has mostly left new reductions in trade barriers to regional free trade agreements.
"The WTO’s Bali agreement also represents the rejuvenation of the multilateral trading system that supports millions of American jobs and offers a forum for the robust enforcement of America’s trade rights. As such, we are proud of the United States’ leadership role in reaching this accord and congratulate WTO Director-General Roberto Carvalho de Azevêdo and our fellow WTO members on this achievement," Obama said.
There is no mention in the statement of Congress having any role in implementing the new accords. Experts say the changes to the U.S. system implied in the agreement could likely be implemented by the administration without new legislation.
Obama is seeking new powers however to conclude regional trade deals in the Pacific and with the European Union. A fast-track trade authority bill is likely to be unveiled by the leaders of the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committee this week.