The World Trade Organization reached an historic trade-liberalization deal Saturday on the Indonesian island of Bali that keeps alive the WTO's broader Doha Development Round of negotiations.
The 159 member states of the WTO showed their political will to overcome differences, reaching agreement on key issues such as grain subsidies and the simplifying of customs procedures to facilitate global trade, the organization's director-general, Brazil's Roberto Azevedo, said at the closing ceremony.
"The WTO has come alive and we saw it as it should be: negotiating, dynamic, working hard to get an agreement and innovative solutions, willing to engage and compromise, seeking common ground and inclusive - something we have not seen in a long time," Azevedo said.
Proponents of further trade liberalization say the agreement could provide a $1 trillion boost to the global economy and create 21 million jobs, although European Commissioner for Trade Karel de Gucht was reluctant to put a number on the deal's economic impact.
But detractors, including the London-based World Development Movement, said the commitments reached in Bali were insufficient and would benefit large corporations instead of the poor.
The summit got underway Tuesday without great expectations after WTO talks in Geneva last month failed to produce an agreement.
It took Azevedo until Friday night - after the closing ceremony had been postponed - to present a text acceptable to India and other developing countries.
Those nations had refused to accept any provisions that might harm "food security" by restricting their ability to help poor farmers and low-income consumers by subsidizing grain stockpiles.
One final obstacle came when Cuba, joined by regional allies Nicaragua, Bolivia and Venezuela, objected to the lack of language in the text prohibiting WTO members from imposing discriminatory measures for any reason.
The group argued that it was unacceptable for the WTO to seek to facilitate trade even as the decades-old U.S. trade embargo on the communist-ruled island remains in place.
But Cuba eventually reached a compromise on the language in the text and dropped its veto of the deal.
Next up for the WTO is for the member states to ratify what was agreed in Bali, a process that could take several years, and complete the Doha Round.
The Doha Development Round, which began in the Qatari capital in 2001 with the aim of liberalizing trade among the WTO's member states, has been stalled since 2008. EFE