WTO commits to development under historic agreement

    Roberto Azevedo, director-general of the World Trade Organization during day 4 of its ministerial conference held in Bali, Indonesia where a historic agreement in the organization's 18-year history was struck. Photo by: WTO / CC BY-SA

    Donor countries are now expected to provide trade facilitation-related technical assistance and build the capacity of developing countries to implement and sustain trade-related reforms under a new, binding trade deal struck over the weekend in Bali, Indonesia.

    The agreement — which is hoped to ease customs procedures, improve trade and reduce corruption — was hailed by World Trade Organization Director-General Roberto Azevedo as a historic milestone in the institution’s 18-year history, and is seen to uplift the derailing influence of the organization on trade negotiations.

    “I’m proud to say, for the first time in our history the WTO has truly delivered,” Azevedo was quoted as saying upon the session’s closing on Saturday, although he made clear everything still has to be finalized.

    Under the deal, WTO donor member countries are expected to provide support to member developing and least developed countries, but that assistance should not in any way “compromise existing development priorities.” The agreement also requires donors to be guided by a set of principles, including making sure the assistance aligns to the overall development framework of recipient countries, that it addresses regional and sub-regional trade-related challenges too, and improve coordination among themselves to prevent duplication of efforts.

    Donors are expected to submit information on the kind of support it aims to provide, amount committed for the next year) and disbursed in the past year, implementing partner and procedures for disbursement — all for transparency purposes.

    It’s too early to tell how the deal will hold in the next few months.

    While several donors have been providing trade-related assistance alongside their development work as part of their increasing aid-for-trade focus, it remains to be seen if and how much donors will be willing to shed for this purpose, especially if it will require them to use aid money on top of their current foreign assistance budget.

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    About the author

    • Jenny Lei Ravelo

      Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.