The business community is putting pressure on World Trade Organization members to seal a trade facilitation deal at this week’s WTO ministerial in Bali, Indonesia.
Speaking to a high-level meeting today between business and ministers in Bali, Victor K. Fung, chairman of the ICC World Trade Agenda initiative, urged business to continue pressing their governments to conclude an agreement on trade facilitation in the next three days.
At the same time, ICC Chairman Terry McGraw, who also serves as USCIB’s chairman, and some 80 other global CEOs issued an open letter to governments, published in the Financial Times, emphasizing that a trade facilitation deal could boost global GDP by upwards of three percent.
Separately, McGraw joined UK Trade Minister Stephen Green in a joint op-ed
published by Reuters spelling out the potential benefits of a trade facilitation deal. “In addition to providing a major stimulus to the global economy, a deal would also reinforce the WTO’s central role in shaping the rules that govern world trade,” they wrote. “The challenges now facing global trade are formidable. Showing that the WTO can help by tackling them one by one — rather than in a mammoth undertaking — would be an important step forward and a model to build on.”
USCIB Senior Vice President Rob Mulligan is attending the Bali ministerial as part of the global business delegation to the talks. Last week, USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson expressed disappointment that WTO members had failed to wrap up a Bali package before the ministerial. He urged ministers to “pick up the pieces and move forward as quickly as possible.”
At the Bali meeting, Fung said that sealing a deal on trade facilitation at the 9th WTO Ministerial, commencing today would benefit all countries by creating millions of jobs and laying the foundations of a level playing field for all countries to compete in world markets.
Fung and Gita Wirjawan, Indonesia’s trade minister, co-chaired the meeting organized by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the Indonesian trade ministry. Ministers and ambassadors from many key WTO member countries participated in the roundtable discussion.
“A trade facilitation deal would put multilateralism back on centre stage in the global quest for growth and prosperity,” Fung said. “For those of us who rely on the fairness, transparency and non-discriminatory nature of the multilateral system, a deal would be a victory for pragmatism and an important stride forward for creating a trading system that works for all. This is especially important for supporting the growth of small- and medium-sized enterprises and growth in the developing world.”
WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo told the gathering that a deal was in sight but would require political engagement and will at the highest level: “This is not a North-South divide and it is not a question of needing more time.” he said. “Either we get a deal done here, or we don’t.”
Azevedo described the role of the business community in pushing for a deal as absolutely critical. “In the last few weeks as momentum has picked up, governments began to pay more attention as businesses became more involved and people began to realize the importance of the package we have before us. Businesses saying that they want this deal, both in developed and developing countries, changed the environment in Geneva significantly and it can change the environment here too.”
A recent report commissioned by ICC has shown that the conclusion of a trade facilitation deal in Bali would generate annual world GDP increases of approximately $960 billion (U.S.) and would increase exports of developing countries by $570 billion. It would also create 21 million jobs, 18 million of which would be in developing economies.
Read more on the ICC website.
Staff contacts: Rob Mulligan