The WTO is back in business?
The building on Lake Geneva which houses the WTO stands as the symbol of the multilateral trading system and the bastion of global non-discrimination in trade governance. Meetings held under WTO auspices, whether physical or virtual, attract global participation by all trading partners. No other institution, and no other location, provides such a venue.
Recent frantic activity inside the WTO building, sadly last week without political decision-makers at Ministerial level, has managed nevertheless to magic up some valuable concrete outcomes.
Very importantly, services trade stakeholders witnessed last week the first trade facilitating outcome on services since the WTO was created. The OECD estimates this deal is worth USD150 billion in annual trade cost savings. This is not to be scoffed at. The announcement on 2 December of agreement at the WTO on a Reference Paper on Services Domestic Regulation is undoubtedly an outcome of historic significance. 67 WTO Members, accounting for 90 per cent of world trade in services have agreed to adopt best practice regulatory principles in a joint effort to cut red tape and ease compliance costs for business. Many more WTO Members are expected to sign on in coming months.
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