World Trade Organization 9th Ministerial Conference

The 9th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC9) was held in Bali from 3-7 December 2013.  The Australian delegation to the Conference was led by the Minister for Trade and Investment, Mr Andrew Robb. 

The package adopted at MC9 was a landmark achievement.

MC9 successfully concluded the first multilateral trade agreement- the Trade Facilitation Agreement – since the WTO’s establishment in 1995.  This agreement was complemented by several Ministerial decisions on agriculture and development issues. 

The “Bali package” represents a group of early harvest outcomes from the Doha Round.  Australia played an important and constructive role throughout the development of this package.  At the Conference, Australia advocated strongly for an outcome from Bali in order to restore confidence in the WTO’s ability to negotiate new trade rules.

Cairns Group Meeting

Immediately prior to MC9, Minister Robb chaired the 38th Cairns Group Ministerial Meeting in Bali on 2 December 2013.  The Cairns Group, a coalition of developed and developing agriculture exporting countries, issued a statement calling for the successful conclusion of negotiations on the Bali package to support multilateral agricultural trade reform.

Trade Facilitation Agreement

The Trade Facilitation Agreement seeks to clarify and improve existing rules which cover traffic in transit, fees and formalities related to the import and export of goods, and the publication and administration of trade regulations.  At its heart, the Agreement seeks to cut the costs of trade by removing red tape and unnecessary formalities in border clearance procedures.  It has been estimated by the Peterson Institute for International Economics that the agreement will add US $ 1 trillion to global GDP and more than 20 million jobs particularly in East Asia.  Australian exporters (and particularly small- and medium- sized enterprises) can expect to benefit. 

In addition to the assistance provided to traders, the Agreement aims to improve cooperation between Members’ customs authorities, as well as to enhance technical assistance and capacity building to assist developing countries with implementation.

The Agricultural Package

The agricultural package comprises a Ministerial declaration reaffirming the global commitment to eliminate agricultural export subsidies and Ministerial decisions to address genuine food security needs through non-trade distorting policies, and to maximise export opportunities under tariff-rate quotas.

Development Issues

The package of development issues concluded in Bali included discussions to enhance participation of developing countries in multilateral trade:  a decision on preferential rules of origin for Least Developed Countries (LDCs); the operationalisation of the waiver concerning preferential to services for LDCs, a decision on Duty-free, Quota-free access for LDCs, a Monitoring Mechanism for Special and Differential Treatment; and a decision on improving market access for cotton products from least developed countries.

Yemen Accession

The Conference also adopted a decision on the accession of the Republic of Yemen which will become the WTOs 160th Member.