The World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Ninth Ministerial Conference began on Bali, Indonesia, today. Finland’s representative at the negotiations is Minister for European Affairs and Foreign Trade Alexander Stubb. Finland's objective at the conference is that the negotiations would lead to results.
The main goal of the conference is to reach an agreement on the Doha Round Bali ‘mini-package’. Finding solutions to contentious issues is important not only to Finland, but to all WTO members. Success in finding results would send a message to the members of the organisation and the rest of the world that it is possible to reach an agreement on the rules governing international trade between a large number of participants.
“The multilateral trading system is at risk of losing track in the transition of the world economy. It is possible to build mutual understanding on trade liberalization and new rules by means of bilateral agreements. They cannot replace the WTO trading system, however,” states Minister for European Affairs and Foreign Trade Alexander Stubb.
From the Finnish point of view, in the Bali mini-package, agreement on trade facilitation is of special importance. If implemented, the agreement would have major impacts on Finnish foreign trade in relation to Russia in particular. With the agreement, it would be simpler for Finnish companies to export their products to the eastern neighbour, when, for example, customs procedures and documentation requirements would be eased.
In addition to trade facilitation, the Bali conference aims to achieve results in agricultural issues, including food safety, tariff rate quotas and export competition. The negotiations about development themes concern establishment of a monitoring mechanism to review the implementation of special and differential treatment for developing countries. In relation to the least developed countries, the topics of discussion will include the rules of origin, the implementation of special exemptions in trade in services, cotton, and duty-free and quota-free market access.
In spite of serious efforts, the preparation meetings preceding the ministerial held in Geneva failed to reach an agreement on the most controversial negotiation issues, and therefore the aim is to continue this work in Bali. Regardless of the difficult and challenging situation, Finland heads off to the ministerial conference with high hopes.
“The changes in international trade should be mirrored also in the negotiations conducted within the WTO. The relative meaning of customs tariffs as obstacles to trade has diminished. The mini-package would provide us with an excellent opportunity to start addressing new issues as well. Having the negotiations on trade procedures finalized in Bali would be a major step forward from the perspective of Finnish economic growth,” Stubb pointed out.
The ministerial conference will end on Friday 6 December.