Optimism rose this week for a deal on a package of agreements for the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) upcoming ministerial conference in Bali, Indonesia after WTO members gave broad support to compromise deals on agriculture issues included in the package.

Some WTO members expressed reservations on various elements of the deals relating to food security, tariff rate quota (TRQ) administration, and export competition at a November 20 meeting at the organization’s Geneva headquarters; however, none of the delegations in attendance rejected the texts out of hand, according to officials attending the Geneva meeting.

WTO members are now refocusing their efforts on hammering out a compromise on trade facilitation, considered the cornerstone of the Bali package.

In a related development, the WTO announced that a meeting scheduled yesterday of the organization’s ruling General Council was postponed until further notice in order to give negotiators more time to strike an agreement. The meeting was due to wrap up the Geneva preparations for Bali by adopting decision documents for transmission to the December 3-6 ministerial.

The Bali package, which would also contain several agreements addressing the concerns of least developed countries, is considered critical to the future of the organization, which has not concluded a multilateral trade deal since its establishment in 1995. WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo warned November 1 that failure to secure the package would call into question the credibility of the WTO as an effective forum for trade negotiations and probably spell the end of the moribund Doha Round of trade talks.

“Progress today on agriculture issues is one important mile marker on the way to Bali — a Bali package is possible, if, and only if, there is a strong deal on trade facilitation. Trade facilitation remains unfinished, which underscores the need for intense work over the next days,” said U.S. Ambassador to the WTO Michael Punke.