12/9/13 UPDATE: The World Trade Organization conference last week was pushed into Saturday, but after 12 years of negotiations, a deal has been produced.
The Bali package, which is a collection of issues pulled from the larger, multilateral Doha round of trade talks currently ongoing among WTO membership, contained two key points for agriculture.
Public food security stock-holding programs in developing countries received insulation from legal challenges over their ability to distort trade, even if they exceed allowable limits. Tariff quotas, in which trade volumes under quota have lower duties applied to them, were retooled to make the quotas themselves more transparent.
12/3/13: World Trade Organization ministers will meet today for a ministerial conference in Bali, Indonesia, but they may not have much to do.
The Doha round of trade negotiations among the WTO membership has been ongoing since 2001, and could have boosted the entire world economy by $1 trillion dollars, according to World Trade Organization Director-General Roberto Azevêdo.
Now Azevêdo says negotiators have failed to craft a deal, and while they fell short of the finish line, he says ministers in Bali won’t have a deal to sign. Talks, he says, stalled over details while in Geneva the week before, and that the final details can’t be negotiated in Bali.
US Grains Council CEO Tom Sleight says one of the biggest agricultural topics on the table is the G-33 Food Security proposal, brought forth by a coalition of 33 developing countries. The proposal would use price supports to improve food security and help poor farmers, but some at the table argue there’s no assurance the program stays targeted at the poor and steers clear of market distortion. Slate says the proposal also prompts concerns about increased export competition, particularly with respect to wheat and rice.
Azevêdo expects several more weeks before negotiators close the gaps on details like those, but in the chance that no global deal is reached, he sees grave consequences. In particular, Azevêdo feels the WTO’s credibility would suffer, and that the organization would be viewed as a trade court, no longer as a forum in which governments could negotiate trade agreements.