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Assistant US Trade Representative for the World Trade Organization (WTO) and Multilateral Affairs Mark Linscott spoke today to the Global Business Dialogue as part of a panel discussing the outlook for a WTO agreement in the upcoming 9th Ministerial Conference in Bali, Indonesia. The panel was titled “Bridge Building in Bali: Outlook for a WTO Agreement at the 9th Ministerial Conference.” In addition to Assistant USTR Linscott, the panel featured speakers from the European Union, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the Center for Global Development as well as a general discussion with the audience.
Before detailing the specific issues facing negotiators at the Bali Conference, Assistant USTR Linscott gave a brief history of the WTO and how the progress of previous negotiations will shape the present. Since those initial WTO agreements, he noted, there have been no multilateral agreements adopted in a period of almost twenty years. Therefore, the Bali Conference is both crucially important to advance the WTO’s multilateral negotiations agenda, particularly in securing a new WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement. “Bali has a chance to be among the two or three or four most important ministerial conferences,” Mr. Linscott said.
Much of the work of WTO Members for the previous 18 months has been focused on negotiating a smaller, “doable” package. The Bali package will include three important pieces: a trade facilitation agreement, and elements of agriculture and development issues.
Assistant USTR Linscott also explained the negotiating process in Geneva in this end game and the role of Ambassador Michael Punke, Deputy USTR and Permanent Representative to the WTO. Despite the amount of work to be done, and the short available time, Mr. Linscott said that overall, the byword for the proposed Bali package is that it is “doable.”
The 9th Ministerial Meeting of the WTO is scheduled for December 3-6, 2013, in Bali, Indonesia.