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Reporters’ Memo: WTO’s Legitimacy So Diminished that Simply Agreeing on Anything Is Touted as Success, Even as Doha Round WTO Expansion Agenda Remains Deadlocked for More Than a Decade

The “Big Breakthrough” – Developing Nations Force Waiver of Existing WTO Ag Rules, Nations Agree to Finish Deal by July to Update Customs Procedures, Previously-Agreed Trade Benefits for Least Developed Nations Adopted

By Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch

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After nearly two decades of futile efforts to expand the authority and scope of the World Trade Organization (WTO), another WTO Ministerial meltdown was averted in Bali today when the United States agreed to a waiver for existing WTO agricultural rules that developing countries had demanded to help ensure food security for their populations.
Countries also are poised to agree to finalize a “trade facilitation” deal by July 2014 that would require countries to update customs procedures, and to formally adopt a package of trade benefits for the poorest nations that was agreed to years ago. The other texts issued from the meeting merely “affirm” past agreements. Notably, agreement could not even be reached to force compliance with a 2005 WTO decision that all countries must eliminate agricultural export subsidies by 2013, which has not occurred.
“Any hype about this outcome ‘saving’ the WTO reveals just how dire its crisis of legitimacy has become, given the actual deliverables were a rollback of existing WTO agricultural rules, a commitment that countries will update their customs procedures and implementation of trade benefits for least developed countries that had been agreed to years ago,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “Reviewing the actual text of the agreement, it appears that the biggest ‘breakthrough’ was simply that yet another WTO Ministerial meeting did not melt down altogether.”