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European Commission

Karel De Gucht

European Trade Commissioner

It is crunch time for the WTO

Press conference at the 9th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO)/ Bali, Indonesia

4 December 2013

Ladies and gentleman,

Allow me first to thank our Indonesian hosts for making us so welcome here in Bali for this WTO ministerial.

I hope by the end of this week that when we speak of Bali, it will be synonymous with a successful outcome of this WTO ministerial. In my view, that would certainly best reflect the spirit of this beautiful, sun drenched tropical paradise.

But right now, I fear the very opposite is true. The storm clouds of failure are right above us.

Ladies and gentlemen: this is crunch time for the WTO.

Failure to achieve a Bali package covering trade facilitation, agriculture and a number of development issues now looms all around us.

The clock is ticking and time is running out. It is five minutes to midnight and we only have minutes left to find a solution.

The impact of such a failure is not limited to the 'Bali package' alone. The international community, the world trading system and, of course, the WTO as an institution will feel the aftershocks for years to come.

Failure will shake the very foundations of the WTO and frankly, it is hard at this point to predict what will be left standing. But rest assured there will be considerable damage.

But, let me make it quite clear here and now, the European Union's support for the WTO remains unshaken.

That's because we will all be worse off if this ministerial fails to reach a deal - let me repeat, all of us: people across the globe in least developed countries; developing countries; emerging countries; and mature economies.

Put simply: we all have everything to gain from a successful outcome; we all have everything to lose from failure.

And I wonder sometimes whether the ministers gathered here today always 'get this', whether 'they get' what is really at stake here?

Ladies and gentlemen, we live in a globalized world. It exists, it's a fact.

When I look around this room, I recall that when I started out in politics a little over 30 years ago, you'd have been here with only a note pad and pen, scribbling down my words only to scramble to a payphone - if you were lucky - to dictate your story to the newsroom. Now, most of you are here with smartphones instantly sending news on Bali around the world. That's progress.

And there has been similar progress in how our economies intertwine, how we trade with another between all corners of the globe.

The WTO has provided us with the instruction manual on how to make that system work best for us, all of us. Everyone has a voice from a small, least developed country to the world's largest economy - the European Union. And it places a shared responsibility on us to help one another.

Just take trade facilitation - which is essentially a way to help many countries cut red tape at their borders to become more efficient and effective traders. This deal could help developing countries save around 325 billion euros per year - that's money which could be spent on better education or health care. Mature economies would be winners too, reducing their trade costs by about 10 per cent.

Just small reductions in global trade costs have a significant impact on global income.

Now, it is no secret that food security has become the issue of the hour.

India's stockpiling of food is of particular significance to them. No one can doubt the importance of food security for the worlds' poor. We should never forget that.

It had seemed that the Geneva discussions had found a solution, but that's no more. Is the answer to point blame? Is the answer to let the benefits of Bali package slip away?

Or, is the answer to find a solution?

I am a believer in results, that's what people across the world expect from us and I'll do my upmost to achieve that even if I must confess there's no easy answer right now.

It's time for one thing and one thing only: for each of us here in Bali to shoulder their responsibility.

Let there be no illusion. As I said before, if Bali fails the damage will be real.

It won't just spell the end of our ability and credibility to achieve valuable multilateral deals on a global scale but it will also leave the WTO rules based system on life support.

I am sorry to say it, but I fear this will spell the end game for the Dispute Settlement Mechanism too - perhaps a slower death, but death all the same.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am an optimist by nature but today I must admit I am in sombre mood.

That said, I'd happily take your questions of course and thank you for your time today.

For further information

The main issues on the agenda of the 9th WTO Ministerial Conference in Bali, 3-6 December 2013: MEMO/13/1076


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