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Cameron hails surprise WTO deal

Prime Minister David Cameron has hailed a "historic" global trade deal which he said could be worth £1 billion a year to British businesses and be a "lifeline" for the world's poorest people.

In a surprise breakthrough, a World Trade Organisation (WTO) meeting in Bali secured a deal to lower barriers and speed up customs procedures after overcoming late objections from India and Cuba.

As well as promising an estimated £613 billion boost to international trade, the deal - the first in nearly two decades - keeps alive the hope of a wider agreement being reached between rich and poor countries in the long-stalled Doha Round.

Mr Cameron has made liberalising trade a key aim of the UK's presidency of the G8 group of developed economies - pushing for EU deals with both the US and China in the absence of WTO progress.

"Trade is a vital part of our long-term economic plan and was one of my G8 priorities this year," he said.

"So I am delighted that we have secured an impressive global deal worth over £1 billion a year to British businesses and £70 billion globally.

"This deal will help boost our exports, meaning that UK companies can grow and employ more people.

"If just 100,000 small businesses either start exporting or spread to new markets over the next five years, this would generate an extra £30 billion for the UK economy and create 100,000 new jobs.

"By slashing barriers to trade, this deal will also provide a lifeline to the world's poorest people.

"Helping developing countries to grow is not only the right thing to do, but it also increases potential markets for us all.

"So this really is win-win and the World Trade Organisation is to be commended for this historic deal."

Such was the surprise at securing a deal between the WTO's 159 members that WTO director-general Roberto Azevedo wept as he announced it.

He said: "We have put the world back into the World Trade Organisation. For the first time in our history, the WTO has truly delivered."

A temporary dispensation for developing nations helped see off India's fears over grain subsidies, and late objections from Cuba over removing a reference to the US trade embargo on it were also overcome.

EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht said: " I believe it's a very important deal. It is the first one since the inception of the WTO two decades ago.

"I would argue that what we did today is a quarter of the Doha agenda. On top of that it's a stepping stone.

"It will add a lot to the trading capacity of the least-developed countries and developing countries," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

"If they have more trading capacity it will also result in more investment in logistics and infrastructure... in all kinds of procedures that are part of the trading process, thereby creating new opportunities."

Confederation of British Industry director-general John Cridland said: "With many British businesses looking further afield at new export markets, this deal is good news.

"The new binding commitments to streamline customs procedures and cut red tape will help British exporters of all sizes to move their products more efficiently around the world.

"Now we need to see ambitious bilateral trade and investment agreements with the US and Japan to provide an additional boost to UK export performance over the long term."

Trade Minister Lord Green, a vice-chair of the Bali conference representing developed nations, said: "This is a great day for the global trading system.

"We've demonstrated that the WTO can deliver significant multilateral trade deals.

"The deal we have agreed here today is good for the UK and even better for developing countries.

"It will bring real benefits to businesses in every country, in particular to small firms which are hardest hit by the costs of trading across inefficient borders."

Business Secretary Vince Cable said: "Cutting red tape and breaking down barriers at borders will create new opportunities, especially for small businesses to export.

"Trade plays a key role in creating jobs and supporting a stronger UK economy.

"It will also bring growth around the world, which is not only good for developing countries but will create new markets for British businesses to invest in.

"The road to securing a trade package in Bali was hard work. I would like to congratulate all the countries that have come together to reach this significant agreement."

Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna said: "Following the delays and disappointingly slow progress we have seen in recent years with the Doha trade talks, this breakthrough with a new trade deal is welcome.

"This agreement has the potential to help Britain boost its exports which have remained sluggish under the Tory-led Government, as well as helping developing economies by removing trade barriers and increasing global trade.

"Here in the UK we need to help more businesses, particularly smaller firms, export.

"Ministers came to office promising an export-led recovery but this has not materialised. The UK's trade balance is getting worse and Government schemes on export finance have failed to help firms."


From Belfast Telegraph