(MENAFN - Qatar News Agency) The World Trade Organization (WTO) on Saturday reached its first major deal to lower barriers to international trade to a roar of approval from delegates at a conference on the Indonesian island of Bali.
The breakthrough followed years of failed attempts to secure the required unanimous agreement from its 159 members
"For the first time in our history, the WTO has truly delivered," WTO chief Roberto Azevedo, who took up the post on September 1 this year, told delegates at the conference in Nusa Dua
"This time the entire membership came together
We have put the 'world' back in World Trade Organization," he said
The deal would lower some trade barriers and reduce the time goods take to clear customs, but falls far short of the more ambitious global free-trade deal championed by the WTO ever since the 2001 Doha Round of talks
Nevertheless, Azevedo said Saturday's agreement was an "important step" towards realizing the WTO's greater goal
The agreement might also help dispel a perception that the WTO was suffering from inertia, having failed to secure unanimous approval for a global trade deal since its foundation in 1995
The prevalence of regional free trade agreements, for instance in the EU, had prompted questions on the WTO's relevance as a dealbreaker.