Istanbul, March 25 () - Bilateral and regional trade agreements had been growing rapidly, but there were many big issues which can only be tackled in an efficient manner in the multilateral context through the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Director-General Roberto Azevêdo said in a lecture at the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga, Latvia.
"The frustration with negotiations at the multilateral level is often cited as a contributing factor to the increase in bilateral and regional trade negotiations that we have seen in recent years" he said, citing that non-multilateral trade agreements predated the multilateral system because, they were the seeds which had been grown into the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.
"We should remember that the WTO provides an important backstop. Because of the multilateral system, countries cannot fall back into bad practices and raise new barriers" he said. "Nevertheless it is clear that these bilateral and regional agreements have been growing rapidly in recent years. Of course it is simpler and less sensitive to strike market access deals bilaterally."
The bilateral or regional market access negotiations would continue to be the most obvious approach, while there were many big issues which could only be tackled in an efficient manner in the multilateral context through the WTO, he sateted.
He said, the Bali Trade Facilitation Agreement was negotiated successfully in the WTO, "Because it makes no economic sense to cut red tape or simplify trade procedures at the border for one or two countries — if you do it for one country, in practical terms you do it for everyone."
"And this is not the only issue that’s inherently multilateral. Financial or telecoms regulations can’t be efficiently liberalized for just one trade partner — so it is best to negotiate services trade-offs globally in the WTO. Nor can farming or fisheries subsidies be tackled in bilateral deals" he added.
"And we should recognise that multilateral agreements can deliver much more than non-multilateral agreements" he stressed. "For example, regional or bilateral agreements tend to deepen existing trade connections. In contrast, multilateral reforms support the creation of new trading relationships and thereby bringing new players into the trading system and creating new trade flows where they did not exist before."
The evidence showed that by bringing developing countries into the world economy in a fair and progressive way was the best way to boost their development and it is the best way to maximize the contribution that trade makes to global growth, he said.
He said, when the Bali Trade Facilitation Agreement would be implemented, the costs of trading in developed countries would be cut by up to 10 percent. "This could create 21 million additional jobs worldwide, the vast majority of which would be in developing countries" he added.