From Paris to Nairobi – political will required

by | Dec 16, 2015 | Trade Working Blog, Uncategorized


OP21 in Paris showed that multilateral solutions can be found to the world’s most pressing problems – if there is political will.  In contrast, expectations are low for a robust outcome from the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial meeting getting underway in Nairobi on 15 December.  That’s a shame – for New Zealand, for developing countries and for the multilateral trading system.  As the pre-eminent body of multilateral trade rules and the arbiter of global trade disputes, the WTO is critically important to all economies.

Today economies are looking to bilateral and regional agreements like TPP to boost trade growth.  While this approach furthers the trade liberalisation agenda, it risks leaving behind the world’s poorest countries, which need the WTO to provide the means for them to compete on a more level playing field in global trade.  It was precisely to foster a more inclusive approach to trade and investment that the WTO’s Doha Development Agenda, launched in Doha, Qatar in 2001 was dubbed a “development round”.

Unfortunately Doha has languished since Ministers came close but ultimately failed to conclude the round in July 2008. It now seems unlikely that the WTO members will be able to ratify even something so straightforward as the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), concluded at last year’s Ministerial in Bali two years ago.  So far only 57 members (including New Zealand) have ratified and 108 ratifications are required to enable TFA to enter into force.  TFA is a no brainer – if this can’t be done, how will the WTO move on to more complex issues of relevance to the way global business is being done today?

From a New Zealand perspective a further problem with regional agreements like TPP is that they do not deal effectively with issues like agricultural and export subsidies which need solutions involving all trading partners.  Only a comprehensive outcome which delivers benefits for all participants is likely to achieve the consensus necessary to put an end to subsidies.

The world is also waiting for the Ministerial to take decisions on other key issues including a package of measures to assist development, liberalisation of environmental goods and services (which would clearly support the Paris COP21 outcome) and a future expansion of the WTO Information Technology Agreement (ITA) covering trade in electronic products.

Paris worked where an earlier gathering in Copenhagen didn’t because the world’s leaders have become increasingly aware that something needed to be done to address dangerous climate change.  Trade and development need the same medicine. Hopefully something of the ‘spirit of Paris’ can flow over to Nairobi to show that multilateralism can work as much for trade as it can for climate change.

This post was prepared by Stephen Jacobi, Executive Director of the NZ International Business Forum.


Register to stay up to date with latest news, as well as saving and discussing articles you’re interested in.

Latest News


Perhaps a cyclone was after all a fitting backdrop for the meeting of the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) which was held in Auckland on 12-14 February – the global environment against which the meeting took place is decidedly stormy.  In the event the wind...


As I write this end of year dispatch, NZIBF is preparing to host the first meeting for 2023 of the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC).  We are looking forward to welcoming the 200 or so business leaders and senior officials from APEC member economies across the...

NZ Herald: Time to lift our game in India

Following his recent visit to India our Executive Director Stephen Jacobi penned this article advocating a more strategic approach to the further development of the relationship. The article was published by the NZ Herald on 9 December.

APEC Rolls out Priorities for 2023

Issued by the Informal Senior Officials’ Meeting - Honolulu, The United States, 13 December 2022 Aiming to provide tailwinds for member economies to strengthen recovery and resilience, as well as advance broad-based economic growth, the United States rolled out its...

NZIBF 2022 Chair Report

ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING 2022 CHAIR’S REPORT I am pleased to present my second report on the activities and achievements of the NZ International Business Forum (NZIBF) for 2022-23, our fifteenth year of operations.  At the outset I would like to thank Members for...


New Zealand business will be represented at the APEC Leaders’ Week in Bangkok, commencing 13 November, by members of the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC). New Zealand’s three members – Rachel Taulelei, Malcolm Johns and Anna Curzon – supported by Stephen Jacobi...

Submission to MFAT for CPTPP Review

30 September 2022 Phil Mellor Economic Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Wellington (By email) Dear Phil, Thank you for your email of 1 September, seeking our comments on the three year review of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans...