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WTO Ministerial begins today in Bali

Nazmul Ahsan

Dhaka along with other 48 least developed countries who are the members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) will push forward their five-point agenda including getting duty-free and quota free market access for their products at the 9th WTO ministerial conference in Indonesian resort island Bali.
The three-day conference will begin today as the trade ministers and representatives from all 49 LDCs at a meeting held in Bali  on Monday finalised their common position ahead of the meeting of the highest decision-making body of the WTO that consists of  trade ministers from 159 WTO member countries, a senior commerce official said.
‘We have reached a common position among all 49 LDCs at a meeting today,’ commerce secretary, Mahbub Ahmed, also the leader of Bangladesh’s 17-member delegation at the ministerial conference, told New Age from Bali.
The areas of consensus are -- duty-free and quota-free access, operationalisation of service waiver,
simplification of rules of origin, cotton and trade facilitation issues, Mahbub added.
The African LDCs, who are the majority on the LDC group have long been demanding the rich countries lower their subsidies on cotton so that cotton export from African region to European and US markets becomes competitive, a trade expert at the commerce ministry said.
He said it was not yet clear the much-talked about agreement on trade facilitation would be signed in the Bali ministerial as a good number of emerging countries including India have been opposing a number of clauses included in the draft agreement on trade facilitation.
The executive director of Centre for Policy Dialogue Mustafizur Rahman said the Bali ministerial should adopt effective measures to implement the earlier decisions of WTO ministerial meetings, particularly on providing duty-free access to all LDCs including Bangladesh.
‘The Doha declaration of the WTO which offered LDCs with duty-free facility should be implemented at an earlier date to benefit the marginalized nations of the world, who are also effective members of the WTO,’ Mustafiz told New Age a few days ago.
Mahbub said they would push the ministerial meeting to provide relaxed rules of origin for LDCs so that the marginalized countries could tap the huge market opportunities lying in the industrial nations.
‘Let us see what happens as developed nations always play decisive roles, subsiding LDCS, in WTO conferences,’ the commerce secretary told New Age.
Commerce minister, who was supposed to lead the Bangladesh delegation at the Bali trade talks, refrained from flying as he would remain busy with nomination filing formalities to contest the upcoming election, a commerce ministry official said.

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