‘Bali Package’ receives backing

HIS Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, yesterday told the World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference to push for the endorsement of the “Bali Package” and added that it will make some very “necessary breakthroughs”.

His Royal Highness made a statement on the second day of the 9th World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference at the Bali Nusa Dua Convention Centre.

His Royal Highness also attended a breakfast meeting hosted by the Minister of Trade of the Republic of Indonesia, Gita Wirjawan.

His Royal Highness highlighted the progress made on reaching agreements on the “Bali Package” and emphasised the importance of ensuring the credibility of the WTO.

“Our job as ministers every two years is supposed to be quite straightforward. We are here to express approval or disapproval of the organisation’s work.

“Our last meeting in Geneva, however, was anything but straightforward. It left us feeling very frustrated. As countries and regions, we were moving ahead bilaterally, regionally and internationally but we needed an agreed global framework for our work and expected the WTO to provide it.

“But it could not. This was very disappointing in our own region. We had targets for a strong level of regional integration in trade and we wanted to give our people the chance to move beyond national interests. Hence the frustration two years ago.

“At this meeting, however, our mood is different. We are not trying to do too much. We are concentrating on a smaller package. We have seen good progress and we want this to continue.

“As it said, ‘if we can endorse the Bali package, it will make some very ‘necessary breakthroughs’.

“The main one for us is the Agreement on Trade Facilitation. This will increase capacity building, reduce the costs of doing business and encourage governments to provide top-class infrastructure.

“So, we fully endorse the package and all that it offers to members, no matter what their size, status or special needs. It will make our people more confident, too. They will start to see the WTO as far more than endless negotiations. They will feel that their voices and concerns are equally heard and I think that’s very important.

“Our people are watching the changes taking place in their lives. They understand them but, at the same time, they are fearful about the future and their place in it.

“So, I hope we can take a big step this week towards allaying those fears. After all, the 21st century is neither new nor mysterious now. It is time to give it shape and direction. And the Bali Package can do precisely that,” said HRH. - Borneo Bulletin (5 December 2013)