Lending agencies urge WTO ‘trade facilitation’ pact
The heads of the World Bank and other international lending agencies have urged countries to salvage an agreement to help poor nations increase trade from the remains of failed world trade talks that began in 2001.
“More than a decade after the launch of the Doha Round, this agreement could be a down payment on the commitment WTO (World Trade Organization) members have made to linking trade and development,” World Bank President Robert Zoellick and the heads of five regional development banks said.
One part of the Doha round of world trade talks was a “trade facilitation” pact aimed at reducing red tape and other border delays that boost the cost of doing business. Despite disagreements that blocked an overall Doha round deal, “the outlines of a new WTO trade facilitation agreement are already clear,” the bank chiefs said. However, developing countries want a credible commitment from richer countries “to support implementation costs such as technical assistance and capacity building,” they said.
A World Bank study estimated the cost of implementing the commitments at about $7 to $11 million in each developing country, spread over a number of years, they said. About 100 of the WTO’s 150 members are developing countries, including 32 that are “least-developed countries.”
World Bank research “suggests that for every dollar of assistance provided to support trade facilitation reform in developing countries, there is a return of up to $70 in economic benefits,” the bank heads said “A significant impact occurs when funds are directed at improving border management systems and procedures: the very issues covered by the trade facilitation negotiations.”
The bank heads said they “stand ready – alongside the WTO – to help countries assess their trade facilitation needs on a case-by-case basis” and match those with needs to available resources. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, rich countries and international development organizations have increased trade-related assistance ten-fold over the past decade to about $400 million, they said.
Zoellick, who finishes his five-year term on Saturday, helped launched the Doha round when he was U.S. trade representative under former U.S President George W. Bush. He and three successive U.S. trade representatives were unable to achieve an agreement to bring the talks to a close.