WTO hails 'historic' trade agreement

WTO hails 'historic' trade agreement

NUSA DUA, Indonesia - Commerce ministers capped days of hard negotiations Saturday by approving a commercial deal that the WTO hailed as a "historic" boost for the trade body and the world economy.

The agreement falls far short of the World Trade Organisation's lofty but elusive vision of tearing down global trade barriers through its frustrating, 12-year-old Doha Round of talks.

But the accord reached on the Indonesian resort island of Bali nevertheless marks the first global agreement struck by the Geneva-based body since its 1995 founding.

"For the first time in our history, the WTO has truly delivered," an exhausted-looking WTO director-general Roberto Azevedo told a closing ceremony.

The pact includes commitments to facilitate trade by simplifying customs procedures, which some economists have estimated could give a US$1 trillion (S$1.25 trillion) jolt to the world economy.

Analysts said, however, the hard-fought nature of the talks indicated how difficult it could be for the body to make real progress on Doha Round issues.

The agreement was reached after more than four days of revolving door haggling in Bali that stretched past the conference's scheduled Friday close and into the early morning hours of Saturday.

Azevedo said it could have important symbolic value for the trade body's hopes of kick-starting Doha.

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