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WTO Reaches First Global Pact At Bali Meeting

The WTO deal was finally confirmed after marathon negotiations in Bali.
Representatives of the 159 member countries of the World Trade Organization (WTO) have agreed on a deal aimed at boosting global trade.

The deal was confirmed on December 7 after marathon negotiations on the Indonesian island of Bali.

It marks the first global agreement struck by all the WTO's members since the organization’s founding in 1995.

WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo said: "We have put the 'world' back in World Trade Organization...For the first time in our history, the WTO has truly delivered."

Indonesia's conference chair Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan called the accord "historic."

"The deal that we had struck will benefit all WTO members," he said. "It will provide new opportunities for business in our poorest members, the least developed countries. [It] provides governments with assurance that they can implement food security programs without fear of facing dispute action in WTO. But it also offers a safeguard that such programs will not be used in a manner which distorts trade and adversely affects farmers in other countries."

The pact includes commitments by WTO members to facilitate trade by simplifying customs procedures, pledges to limit agricultural subsidies, and policies to aid least-developed countries.

Earlier this year, the Washington-based Peterson Institute for International Economics estimated in a report that the customs measures could give a $1 trillion boost to the world economy and 21 million jobs if properly implemented. It did not detail how those figures were calculated.

The deal was clinched after negotiators resolved objections by Cuba and India.

India threatened to veto the package, saying it should be allowed to subsidize grain, under its new food security law, while other members said the program broke WTO rules. A compromise was found calling for a solution to the issue within four years.

Cuba, meanwhile, said the package did not do enough to press the United States to lift its trade embargo on the island, but was eventually persuaded to accept the wording of the agreement.

Analysts said the agreement could help revive the WTO's broader Doha Round of trade negotiations, which despite 12 years of talks, have so far failed to result in a deal to remove global trade barriers.

With reporting by AP and AFP