By Dessianing Ariyanti
BALI, Indonesia -- A deal to boost global trade has been approved by the World Trade Organization's 159 member economies for the first time in nearly two decades, keeping alive the possibility that a broader agreement to create a level playing field for rich and poor countries can be reached in the future.
WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo shed tears during the summit's closing ceremony Saturday as he thanked host nation Indonesia, WTO member countries and his wife.
"We have put the world back into the World Trade Organization," he said. "For the first time in our history, the WTO has truly delivered."
Trade ministers had come to the four-day WTO meeting on the resort island of Bali with little hope that an agreement would be reached after years of inertia in trade negotiations.
The talks were threatened at the eleventh hour when Cuba objected to removal of a reference to the decades-long U.S. trade embargo that Cuba wants lifted.
India had also been an obstacle because of its vociferous objections to provisions that might endanger grain subsidies aimed at ensuring its poor get enough to eat. WTO members gave developing nations a temporary dispensation from subsidy limits, shelving the issue for negotiations at a later time.
"This week has been about high-level diplomacy, long nights and considerable drama," said Indonesian Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan, who chaired the meeting. "But it has also been about ensuring that the gains of the multilateral trading system reach our small businesses and our most vulnerable economies."
The centerpiece of the agreement reached in Bali was measures to ease barriers to trade by simplifying customs procedures and making them more transparent.