Just hours ago in Bali, Indonesia, trade ministers from across the globe approved on a package of multilateral trade agreements. In the final hours of the Ninth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO), negotiators found consensus on customs, agricultural and development issues. Linda Dempsey, NAM’s Vice President of International Economic Affairs, applauded the strong and binding trade facilitation agreement while underscoring manufacturers’ frustration with an open-ended “peace clause” for agricultural subsidies and the WTO’s failure to secure expansion of the Information Technology Agreement (ITA). The dedication and persistence of U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Michael Punke and WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo were critical to this outcome.
Predictable, efficient and transparent customs procedures will help manufacturers in the United States access more effectively and efficiently the 95 percent of global customers that live outside our borders. Director-General Azevêdo reminded delegates that removing barriers to trade and cutting red tape in half, as part of a multilateral Trade Facilitation Agreement, could stimulate the world economy by more than $1 trillion. With support for capacity building in development and least-developed countries, this agreement is likely to have significant and far-reaching economic benefits.
The agreement approved today includes many of the provisions that the NAM has supported, including increased transparency and accountability in global customs rules and regulations—with requirements for advance rulings and appeal procedures—that will greatly facilitate trade around the world. Further, the agreement highlights the value of pre-arrival customs processing, risk-management systems, trusted trader programs and single window document submissions. Separating the release of goods from final determination of customs duties, taxes and fees will also streamline trade flows.
Manufacturers had also been advocating, though, for the first significant expansion of the ITA since it came into effect in 1996. The current ITA has helped generate significant economic benefits, but a significant expansion would bring the agreement into the 21st century and boost high-tech trade. Manufacturers are urging that all countries come back to the table to get this important deal done.
Further, manufacturers are disappointed by the “Peace Clause” outcome that further extends exceptions to the binding nature of existing WTO rules, without addressing effectively the underlying food security issues. Manufacturers want to see strong negotiations move forward that recognize, as the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum has, that market-based outcomes and trade liberalization are best able to promote food security worldwide.