‘Sri Lanka in full support of WTO Bali package!’ – Rishad at Bali’s MC-9
Posted on December 6th, 2013

Media  Ministry of Industry & Commerce

The Doha Development Agenda has been on hold for 12 years. And despite challenges, Sri Lanka extends its fullest support and flexibility to a balanced WTO Bali package. “Doha Development Agenda, which was supposed to inject a new impetus to the world economy through trade creation, has been on hold for 12 long years. And despite the rebuilding challenge, Sri Lanka is ready to extend its fullest support and flexibility towards a balanced Bali package that will ensure some tangible benefits” said Rishad Bathiudeen, Minister of Industry and Commerce of Sri Lanka on 05 December.

 Minister Bathiudeen was addressing the 9th WTO Ministerial Conference in Bali, Indonesia representing Sri Lanka at the 9th Session of the WTO Ministerial Conference, WTO’s top-most decision making body, which is held every two years.  The 9th Ministerial held from 3 ” 6 December, was attended by all 159 Member countries of the WTO and a large number of think-tanks, donor agencies, NGOs and civil society groups.

 The Sri Lanka delegation, which is led by Minister Bathiudeen includes senior officials from the Department of Commerce, Colombo and the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the WTO, Geneva.

 Sri Lanka acceded to WTO on 1 January 1995, and its Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA) status is ‘Observer’.  According to WTO, Sri Lanka’s contribution to WTO budget is 0.06% of the organisation’s 2013 total. Tariff binding coverage is only 38%  (in that, only 38% of products  in Sri Lanka’s list of commitments are legally committed/bound with the WTO). In 2012, the share of duty free imports of non-agricultural products from rest of WTO members (under most favoured nation rule) is a considerable 63.8% while only 3% of the total Lankan tariff lines were subjected to non ad-valorem taxes. WTO identifies that Sri Lanka’s place in world merchandise exports to be at Rank 92 and for Commercial Services, Rank 81. Sri Lanka is not listed by WTO for any disputes except just one request for consultation.

 “The Ninth Ministerial is taking place at a very decisive juncture in the global economy. The sluggish growth witnessed since the 2008 financial crisis has already posed serious policy challenges for every country, both big and small. The fast rising unemployment figures and the growing austerity measures we see in many parts of the world paint a disturbing scenario. Unfortunately, the Doha Development Agenda, which was supposed to inject a new impetus to the world economy through trade creation, has been on hold for 12 long years. Against this backdrop, we, the Members, should make every possible effort to ensure that the Bali Ministerial delivers at least a small, but balanced package, which can unblock the Doha impasse and provide us with a fresh start for negotiations” said Minister Bathiudeen, and added: “With the dawn of peace and stability after nearly three decades of terrorism, the post-conflict Sri Lanka now faces the formidable challenge of rebuilding its economy.

Despite this challenge, Sri Lanka is ready to extend its fullest support and flexibility toward a balanced Bali package that will ensure some tangible benefits to every Member in the WTO family.  If there is no successful outcome in Bali, we will not be able to even think of a comprehensive Doha package, which includes many other important areas such as NAMA, Agriculture and Services.  With everyone’s effort and dedication, we have achieved a great deal of consensus on the texts that are before us and this progress did not come-by easily.  I firmly believe that we are not very far from a deal. Letting go of this opportunity at this stage will be a great loss we will regret for many, many years. 

With stronger political commitment and a little more flexibility by every Member, we will surely be able to walk the remaining mile. Let me also inform you that the Group of Fifteen, a Summit level Group of 17 developing countries currently chaired by Sri Lanka calls for a fresh impetus at the ninth Ministerial Council for an early conclusion of the Doha with a “development” oriented outcome. It also emphasizes the importance of the accession to WTO by developing countries, particularly the LDCs.  An early outcome on the intended Bali package is also an imperative for us to restore the credibility of both the WTO and the multilateral trading system it leads.”  

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