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Australia's B20 urges pressure on India to ratify WTO's Bali package

The Australian-led B20, which is advising the Group of 20 world ’s leading economies on business inititiaves, has urged member countries not to give up on the Bali trade package.

India has effectively vetoed the World Trade organisation’s Bali trade facilitation declaration, which involves a wide range of initiatives to reduce customs red tape.

WTO decisions are made on a consensus basis and India – supported by its pro-communist allies Cuba, Venezuela and Ecuador – have refused to endorse the Bali declaration, made last December by all 159 members.

It sets caps on how much a country can stockpile and subsidise food – India says the agreement is insufficient for its needs. The Bali package was intended to be put into the WTO rulebook on July 31.

Economists say the streamlining and harmonisation of customs practices will save more than $US1 trillion eventually.

B20 Australia – an advisory forum of business leaders led by Wesfarmers’ Richard Goyder – says it’s “extremely” disappointed in the Indian move and has pledge to continue to push the case for trade facilitation.

“We think there’s significant benefits to all countries, particularly developing economies, in freeing up trade facilitation as agreed in Bali,” he says.

“We think it’s disappointing and we would encourage everyone to see if they can get this to happen. It’s important on these trade things to get everyone in because everyone will benefit.”

Research for the B20 suggested the successful and rapid implementation of the Bali agreement could contribute at least 1% to global GDP over the next five years.

Australia is chairing the G20 this year. It will meet in Brisbane in October.

More by Nevil Gibson

Comments and questions

There is no way this agreement is done as a primary mechanism to benefit developing countries. Developed countries like UsA and Australia are pushing it as the benefit of TFA is significantly higher for them. India will use its leverage to push its agenda, and there is not a lot the developed countries can do about it. Better to have a deal that works for the benefit of all than just the small number of rich countries.

Wesfarmers does not care about developing countries. All it is interested in is market access to their markets. You will have to pay a fair price for that. It is not yours to take for granted.