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Regional Consultation on Road to Bali

South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE), Kathmandu, and the Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka (IPS), Colombo organized a two-day regional consultation on “Road to Bali: South Asian Priorities for the Ninth WTO Ministerial” in Marawila, Sri Lanka on 2-3 July 2013. The consultation adopted a resolution that will be submitted to all SAARC countries that are WTO members, so that they have a common voice in some of the WTO issues to take to the Ninth WTO Ministerial that is taking place in Bali on 3-6 December this year. Participants of the consultation opined that there are differences amongst South Asian countries, and it would be difficult to have a common position on all issues; however, there are issues that are of common concern to most of the South Asian countries, and those concerns should be taken to the WTO Ministerial with a common voice.

Some of the major issues that the consultation came up with to request SAARC governments to take to the Ninth WTO Ministerial as South Asia’s common position include: effective market access on items of export interest to developing countries and least-developed countries (LDCs); market access in services, especially for Mode 4; financial and technical assistance from developed country members for infrastructure upgradation in developing countries and LDCs.

The consultation further reiterated the need for effectively utilising flexibilities available to developing countries under the Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), especially in the context of public health. Moreover, support to the disclosure requirement for enhanced mutual supportiveness between the TRIPS Agreement and the Convention on Biological Diversity formed key to the resolution adopted.

The resolution also focused on the provision of additional Aid for Trade (AfT) funding for regional projects in South Asia, and preferential AfT for LDCs, along with putting in place a robust AfT monitoring and evaluation mechanism with full participation of recipient countries; and enforcement of the duty-free and quota-free (DFQF) market access to LDCs on all products of their export interest, in line with Annex F of the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration of 2005.

Appreciating the efforts of the organizers in organizing the consultation prior to the SAARC Commerce Ministers’ meeting going to take place in Colombo in August, Mr Anura Siriwardena, Secretary of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Government of Sri Lanka, stated that besides discussing several regional trade issues, the Commerce Ministers will also discuss South Asia’s common position for the Ninth WTO Ministerial; and the outcomes of the two-day consultation would provide a solid basis for the meeting.

Participants of the consultation included representatives of civil society organizations, think tanks, government organizations, intergovernmental organizations, media organizations, among others, from five South Asian countries.

Background Note

Programme Agenda