The recent focus on what divides world leaders, from Syria to the euro zone, has obscured the significant agreements reached at the Group of 20 meeting in St. Petersburg earlier this month. One of the most important was support for free trade and opposition to protectionism.
We can now build on this momentum, as well as other trade liberalization efforts, to achieve meaningful progress at the World Trade Organization ministerial meeting in Bali in December.
Though critics describe the G20 as ineffective, it has been key in fostering economic cooperation among the world’s largest countries and helping to stave off the worst economic catastrophe since the Great Depression. With the economic stresses of the past five years potentially triggering protectionism, it’s noteworthy that G20 members have steadfastly supported free trade.
In St. Petersburg, for example, G20 members agreed to freeze the introduction of trade protectionist measures until 2016. This was a major achievement that lays the groundwork for much-needed progress on the trade agenda.
A top priority of the WTO ministerial, which will bring together ministers from the group’s 159 members, should be moving forward with the WTO’s trade facilitation agreement. This would harmonize hundreds of administrative procedures and standards that dictate how goods cross borders or are handled in customs. It would reduce the red tape that can divert precious resources, slow supply chains and increase the cost of goods by an estimated 5 percent to 15 percent.