Speaking to globalmeatnews.com, Liz Murphy, the IMTA’s director, welcomed the deal saying: “Anything that hopefully points towards reducing the administration of clearing borders has to be a good thing and should be welcomed.”
She hoped this WTO deal on trade facilitation would now “materialise into something definitive”. The text is often detailed, insisting for instance on electronic payment systems and pre-clearance services, but Murphy insisted: “The real test will be the practicalities,” stressing its value would be demonstrated through implementation.
One issue will be its enforcement by the WTO, should there be disputes between member countries over whether they are complying with its terms. Unlike some other WTO agreements, where countries are bound by numeric commitments on tariffs, subsidies and other trade issues, the rules of this agreement, noted Murphy, are “more nuanced”. But she insisted: “It’s better than not having something that you can point to.”
Even before the deal is ratified, “we have something we can talk to the [European] Commission about and alert them [to a trade administration problem]. We expect the Commission would then have more force behind it when pushing for a trading partner to ease its trade red tape,” she added.
Murphy also welcomed that this was a multilateral deal, the largest the WTO has struck since being created in 1994. While bilateral trade agreements were useful, they could restrict meat importers from purchasing meat and livestock from countries with whom an importing state had weak trade relations. With global agreements, “consumers have choice”, she stressed.
Meanwhile, the meat industry must wait before the agreement comes into force. Its text will be finalised for legal purposes for formal approval by the WTO general council on 31 July 2014. Then, two-thirds of WTO member countries must ratify it before it can be enforced, which might take two years or more. The agreement on trade facilitation was agreed by a WTO ministerial conference in Bali, Indonesia, which wrapped up on 6 December.
Speaking to globalmeatnews.com, William Westman, vice-president international trade for the American Meat Institute (AMI), said: “We are pleased that the WTO recognises the importance of trade facilitation and easing barriers to the movement of agricultural products worldwide. These are vital goals and activities to alleviating world hunger and improving trade opportunities for all producers.” He added that the AMI had been working on trade facilitation with US neighbours Canada and Mexico and wanted to continue these efforts with countries involved in key regional trade negotiations, notably with the European Union and Asia-Pacific countries through the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks.
Westman also hoped the WTO would move beyond the facilitation deal and restart serious agricultural negotiations that have been stalled through deadlocks at the WTO Doha Development Round, notably on market access and sanitary and phytosanitary issues, “where we must use science as the basis for establishing standards for trade”. He hoped the talks would reaffirm the role of international standard setting bodies including the UN’s Codex Alimentarius and the World Animal Health Organisation (OIE).
Jean-Luc Mériaux, general secretary of the European Livestock and Meat Trading Union (UECBV) agreed the deal indicated that the Doha round is still in play and that the trade facilitation agreement itself “is promising for the global trade growth”. Speaking to globalmeatnews.com, he said it would boost predictability and access within export markets. And he stressed that he had seen no analysis suggesting that the Bali deal would harm EU interests.
As for the meat and livestock sector, specific help would come from strengthening electronic systems of duty payment, Customs procedures and veterinary certification. While e-certification of cargo is available through some bilateral agreements, these are too modest in scope, he said: “The measures… adopted in Bali might… develop e-certification,” securing information flows between customs authorities and business. “The operations should be safer and less burdensome,” he added.
He stressed the most visible benefits would be seen among developing countries “because they currently have the most burdensome procedures in place for cross border trade”, although he agreed implementation could be slow.
He added that the global trade in meat and livestock “encounters difficulties, barriers, obstacles, but the vast majority of them are in relation to SPS [sanitary and phytosanitary] issues”. And while the new WTO deal is helpful, OIE standards and the existing WTO SPS agreement are, in his view, “the tools to tackle these barriers and obstacles”, along with existing “bilateral agreements that reinforce the co-operation in the fields of animal welfare, animal health and public health”.