Bali Meeting: Sustainability Key to Future of Multilateral Trade

4 December 2013

BALI, INDONESIA - Incorporating sustainable development into the multilateral trading system is crucial to the successful future of the system, attendees at a major side event being held on the sidelines of the WTO's Ninth Ministerial Conference heard today.

The opening plenary of the Bali Trade and Development Symposium, moderated by Indonesian TV personality and former Presidential spokesperson, Wimar Witoelar, featured a range of high-profile speakers discussing various aspects of the future of the WTO, as delegates prepared for their second day of talks at the nearby Ministerial venue.

Panellists at the event, hosted by the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), pointed to the need for a scaled-up focus on food security and renewable energy in trade discussions to help ensure future sustainability.

Panellists emphasised the importance of the uncertain role WTO negotiations are playing in shaping the long-term future of the world's most vulnerable.

"The trade rules that are being discussed today will shape the development possibilities we have for the future," said Ricardo Meléndez-Ortiz, chief executive of ICTSD. "The question of competitiveness between national entities is outdated; we need new rules that recognise that."

David Runnalls, ICTSD Chairman, emphasised the importance of managing natural resources trade to help provide a sustainable future.

"Foreign investors in the extractive industries of forestry, mining, oil, and gas are leading the recent commodities boom," Runnalls told the Symposium. "Many of these operations are seriously harming the biodiversity and natural environments of developing countries. The WTO will have to work to create a set of rules obligating foreign investors to behave in a more sustainable manner."

Djisman Simandjuntak, Chair CSIS Foundation, echoed Runnall's comments, noting that countries must learn to use trade to help reduce consumption.

"The loss of biodiversity is one of the most pressing issues facing Asia today." Simandjuntak said. "Under a good trade regime, we can reduce the material intensity of our economies, to do more with less,"

José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs, Executive Director of the International Labour Organization (ILO), spoke to the need for the WTO to create structures that foster job creation.

"The WTO and trade are extremely important enabling platforms in the quest for job creation, but trade liberalisation will not automatically create job miracles," said Salazar-Xirinachs. "In developing countries, with simple and undiversified production structures, net job creation depends on new investment and the supply response capabilities."

For over a decade the Trade and Development Symposium has brought together leading negotiators, Ministers, business executives, NGOs, and global experts, in a forum for generating ahead of the curve thinking on international trade policy, particularly at the intersection between trade and sustainability. As a regular feature of the WTO Ministerial conferences, the TDS has earned a reputation as the premier parallel event. The Bali event brings together 200 plus speakers, and 800 plus participants, in over 50 sessions held across three days.

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