By now the ink has dried on the hard-fought achievement of the 9th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) last weekend in Bali, Indonesia. The landmark agreement – the first since the establishment of the WTO in 1995 – consists of three components: trade facilitation, some agricultural topics, and issues of importance to least developed countries.
Beyond the substance, the agreement comes at an important moment. Just at the point when many feared that momentum was shifting toward bilateral agreements and “mega-regional” trade agreements and away from the WTO, members managed to reach agreement at the multilateral level. This is especially important for the small and least developed countries that rely most heavily on the multilateral system to have an equal voice, secure market access, and effectively integrate into the global economy. While trade ministers, the WTO Secretariat, and its Director General deserve credit for the outcome and probably a much-needed rest, attention must now turn toward developing a concerted and well-coordinated effort to ensure successful implementation.