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WTO changes focus to trade facilitations

Publication Date : 17-10-2012


The World Trade Organisation (WTO) will be focusing on trade facilitations, as negotiations in removing global trade barriers have not progressed since the deadlock in 2008, a senior executive of the world's trade governing body says.

WTO deputy director general Valentine Rugwabiza said yesterday in Jakarta that one of the key areas was trade facilitation, which would be central to emerging countries like Indonesia. The basic trade facilitation would include easing customs procedures, providing transparency and predictability for the implementation of the procedures and lower costs, she said.

"Trade facilitation is a key area and one that is progressing. We hope that by sometime next year, it will come to fruition," Rugwabiza said during an interview with The Jakarta Post.

Rugwabiza said progress was also being seen in the area of market access for least-developed countries to further integrate into the market. At the WTO ministerial meeting last year, several major trading partners of least-developed countries, such as China, expressed their commitment to open access to their market.

Trade negotiations during the Doha Round, which aimed to eliminate trade barriers around the world to free up global markets, cut agricultural subsidies and enhance the international trading system, have been deadlocked since 2008.

Developing countries like China and India refused to slash import tariffs on industrial goods, while developed markets, led by the US and the European Union, did not want to compromise on measures to protect farmers in poorer countries.

Following the deadlock, many countries have moved on with sealing more bilateral as well as regional trade agreements to shore up trade.

Rugwabiza said that despite the deadlock in the area of tariff reduction, the WTO expected negotiations in the multilateral forum to be concluded, as it was very important for both developing and developed economies.

"Clearly, we have to find a new balance between rights and responsibilities for some of the subjects where not much progress is being made," she said.

Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan said that Indonesia would support trade facilitation as an area for WTO focus in future negotiations, as it would significantly ease trading of international goods and services.

Apart from that, Indonesia would propose that developed countries lift import tariffs and export quotas for least-developed countries in order to kick-start the Doha Round, he added.

"Special concessions should be given to them. If this does not happen, they will not enter the negotiations or become engaged," he said.

Boosted by the recent Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) consensus on a duty reduction on environmental goods, Wirjawan said that the prospects for future negotiations in the area of trade facilitation were positive.

During the APEC Summit in Vladivostok, Russia last month, APEC members agreed on a list of 54 environmental goods that would receive tariff cuts of up to 5 per cent by 2015. Efforts in drafting the list were first made by the WTO back in 2001, but it failed at the time to achieve any progress.


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