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Bali WTO week of action

TRADE: World's parliaments push for a WTO agreement in Bali
3 December 2013
Bali, 02/12/2013 (Agence Europe) – On the sidelines of the ministerial meetings, the parliamentary conference – chaired by Vital Moreira (S&D, Portugal) – stresses its shared responsibility in the negotiations.

Opening the WTO parliamentary conference – which is taking place alongside the 9th WTO ministerial conference in Bali on 3-6 December – WTO Deputy Director General Karl Brauner called on the members of parliament to “use political influence on their governments” to help the 159 WTO member countries overcome their differences and build bridges in order to reach political agreements and conclude a partial agreement on the Doha Round – a round which has been treading water since 2008.

This is a role that the acting co-chairs of the parliamentary conference – Vital Moreira from Portugal, who is the chair of the European Parliament's international trade committee, and Phairoj Tanbanjong, the leader of the Thai Parliament – do not take lightly. “As representatives of our peoples, we are well placed to take on board their concerns when scrutinising legislation. We have a responsibility to do this, as well as a responsibility to explain to the public at large what the issues at stake are”, said Moreira in his opening speech on Monday 2 December. He also underlined the role of the WTO parliamentary conference – which the European Parliament is co-organising with the interparliamentary union – for “creating legitimacy in the global trade system”.

“The mission of parliaments in the world trade system lies in making the trading system work for the poor”, said Tanbanjong, underlining that the traditional role of parliaments “is to focus first and foremost on our fellow human beings”. “We must therefore strive to ensure that multilateral trade relations are governed by ethical criteria and guided by equity, sustainability and transparency”, he added.

In response to calls from the parliamentary representatives for greater recognition of the parliamentary dimension at the WTO, Brauner said that the current leadership of the WTO was working for more transparency and inclusiveness.

Some 250 members of parliament from throughout the world, who are specialists in international trade, have this week gathered on the small Hindu island of Bali in the Indonesian archipelago to discuss current international trade issues with ministers and high-level WTO officials – issues such as bilateralism versus multilateralism, and the challenges of the 21st century. The parliamentary conference will adopt a final statement with a political message for the government negotiators.

Moreira is leading a delegation from the European Parliament in Bali composed of Daniel Caspary (EPP, Germany), Paul Rübig (EPP, Austria), Laima Liucija Andrikiené (EPP, Lithuania), Iuliu Winkler (EPP, Romania), Henri Weber (S&D, France), Jörg Leichtfried (S&D, Austria), Niccolo Rinaldi (ALDE, Italy), Robert Sturdy (ECR, UK) and Helmut Scholz (GUE/NGL, Germany).

Putting an end to ten years of stalemate. In a resolution adopted on 21 November, the European Parliament underlines the systemic importance of a mini-agreement in Bali on the Doha Round. Stating their faith in multilateralism, the MEPs call on the European Commission to increase pressure in order to break the ten years of stalemate in the negotiations launched in 2001, and to build a bridge between the positions of the member countries. “If we fail now, it would be very bad for the authority and credibility of the WTO”, said Moreira the day before the conference. As well as an agreement on trade facilitation, the European Parliament expects a result from Bali focusing on the interests of developing countries, on the interests of SMEs, on a plurilateral agreement on the liberalisation of services, and on the parliamentary dimension. (EH/transl.fl)