BALI, Indonesia, 3 December 2013 – The Ninth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) commenced today with trade ministers and officials from over 160 countries seeking a deal that would salvage the image of what was once the vanguard institution for globalization.
In his opening remarks, the WTO’s new director general, Roberto Azevedo of Brazil said that “the future of the WTO and the Multilateral Trading System is in the balance.” This was echoed by the Chair of the Ministerial Conference, Mr. Gita Wirjawan of Indonesia who said that an agreement in Bali would “send a strong message to the rest of the world that the multilateral trading system works; that the WTO remains the pre-eminent forum for negotiating new trade rules; and that it can deliver tremendous economic benefits to all its Members.”
These remarks underscore that the WTO has in fact been languishing for the last 12 years with no progress in the so-called Doha Development Agenda (DDA). The DDA is the latest round of trade negotiations under the WTO that was supposed to improve the trading prospects of developing countries. A breakthrough in Bali, according to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, would break the impasse in the DDA and save multilateralism itself.