Customs impasse is WTO’s ‘most serious crisis’

Roberto Azevedo, director general of the WTO

Roberto Azevedo, director general of the WTO

BEIJING: An impasse over a global pact to streamline customs procedures poses “the most serious crisis the WTO has faced” and has paralyzed all negotiations in the trade body, its chief Roberto Azevedo said.

A draft of the so-called Trade Facilitation Agreement was hammered out last December during tough negotiations at a World Trade Organization conference in Bali — the WTO’s first global accord since its 1995 founding.

But the WTO’s 160 members failed in July to reach a final agreement on the deal, which Azevedo himself has said is crucial to ensuring the WTO’s relevance.

“The impasse has effectively paralyzed the multilateral negotiations in the organization,” Azevedo told reporters in Beijing.

“Substantial discussions on all the measures in the Bali package program have come to a halt.

“I have described this impasse to members as the most serious crisis the WTO has faced,” he said on the sidelines of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum’s annual gathering, hosted this year by China.

 
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