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AfricaMoney | August 22, 2017

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WTO seeks to shape future of global trading systems

WTO seeks to shape future of global trading systems

The stage is set for a huge makeover of the global trading system at the ninth World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial conference. (Image: International Business Times)

Even as we speak, the stage is all set for a huge makeover of the global trading system.

Trade ministers from 159 countries have gathered at Bali to brainstorm the future of trade linkages across the globe at a WTO forum from December 3 to December 6.

Mauritius is represented at the ninth World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial conference by foreign minister and minister of international trade, Arvin Boolell.

The forum will be addressed by the Conference Chairman and Indonesia’s Trade Minister, Gita Wirjawan; Director-General Roberto Azevêdo; and the Chairman of the General Council, Ambassador Shahid Bashir (Pakistan).

Together, the ministers will look for solutions to shape the future of WTO, which will have an enormous impact on trade policies across the world.

The conference was opened by the President of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who stated in the inaugural speech that the success of talks in Bali will provide the necessary force for an expansion of global trade.

This in turn would result in a decrease in poverty around the world, he noted.

Of particular importance to Sub-Saharan Africa, the Bali package consists of specific measures to support the least developed countries (LDCs) and a method to review and strengthen special and differential treatment provisions in all WTO agreements.

Furthermore, in keeping with the needs of LDCs which face problems with feeding rapidly expanding populations amid gradually increasing agricultural productivity, the forum will also tackle agricultural issues.

The Bali package also consists of trade facilitation measures, the absence of which is estimated to cost $1 trillion a year for the global economy in the form of cumbersome customs procedures, border delays and slow movement of goods.

More importantly, trade facilitation measures are not only targeted at streamlining customs procedures and decreasing unnecessary border delays but will also result in job creation and opportunities in places where there is unemployment or slow growth.

Concerning the revised Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) discussed today, it will enter into force when approved by at least two thirds of the 15 concerned parties during the first quarter of 2014. Till date, it has been approved by Liechtenstein, Norway, Canada, Chinese Taipei, the United States, Hong Kong-China and the European Union.

Roberto Azevêdo considered the GPA to be a crucial element of overall economic activity, which represents 15-20 per cent of GDP worldwide.

Also, government procurement has a direct impact on both the national coffers as well as the well-being of citizens, dealing as it does with the efficient provision of infrastructure and public services such as health and education.

Due to the impact of GPA related to bilateral and regional arrangements, the importance of government procurement policies is increasing, as an element of international trade.

Vide the GPA, the members will agree to uphold certain important disciplines in relation to transparency, competition and good governance in the procurement sector. It also covers the procurement of goods, services and capital infrastructure by public authorities.

Several other parties indicated in today’s meeting that they would submit their acceptances in the coming weeks. New Zealand, Montenegro and China are looking forward to comply with the agreement, their representatives indicated.

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