The WTO in Bali: What MC9 means for the Doha Development Agenda and why it matters

Rorden Wilkinson, Erin Hannah, James Scott

The conclusion of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) ninth ministerial meeting—held in Bali 3-7 December 2013—is at one and the same time momentous, marginal, and business-as-usual. It is momentous because it marks the first multilateral agreement reached in the WTO since the organisation began operations on 1 January 1995; it is marginal because the deal reached will have only a limited impact on the global trading system; and it is business as usual because the Bali package will be of disproportionally greater value to the industrial states than to their developing and least developed counterparts. We examine what happened in Bali covering the principal issues at stake and the content of the outcome, what this means for the WTO and for the Doha Development Agenda (DDA), and why it all matters. We argue that while the Bali ministerial is significant and the agreements reached important, the conclusion of the meeting and the package agreed represents only a limited movement forward in addressing the fundamental problems and inequities of the WTO system.