WTO meeting fails to achieve consensus

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) could not reach a consensus on key issues such as food security in developing countries, e-commerce and the centrality of development in multilateral trade negotiations.

The December 10-13 meeting of the (WTO’s) highest decision-making body in Buenos Aires, Argentina, ended with all the 164 of WTO members unable to reach a consensus on substantive trade issues.

However, the Ministerial Conference reached a commitment to ban certain forms of fisheries’ subsidies by 2019.

File:Roberto Azevedo.jpg
WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo admitted the WTO meeting at Buenos Aires couldn’t achieve major agreements. Credit: WTO/Studio Casagrande [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr
U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer said that the WTO was moving away from trade negotiations and “becoming a litigation-centered organization.” He also was critical of some WTO members who attempted to gain trade wins through legal action that he said they could never get through normal channels.

During the talks, the U.S. refused to implement India and China’s food security programmes without burdensome conditions. All major WTO decisions need to be agreed on “the membership as a whole” so a single country can become a deal-breaker.

“Members did not manage to agree on final substantive agreements this time,” WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo said at the closing ceremony.

The result led U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, to suggest that talks among smaller groups of “like-minded” WTO countries were a better approach for the future (AFP).

“We have not achieved any multilateral outcomes,” European Union Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström told a news conference. “The sad reality is that we did not even agree to stop subsidizing illegal fishing.”

WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo said that progress for the future would require WTO members “a leap in members’ positions.” He said that members needed to realize they could not get everything they wanted.

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