In case you missed it, last weekend all 159 countries of the World Trade Organization (WTO) reached an agreement in Bali after adding an additional day to the negotiation. Bali represents the first time that all WTO member-states were able to come to an agreement since the 1994 Uruguay agreement that created the organization itself.  As WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo stated bluntly, “for the first time in our history: the WTO has delivered.” Two questions now loom large for the Geneva-based WTO: after 18 years, what’s suddenly changed, and where does the WTO go next?

Estimates of the economic impact of the Bali package vary, but reports indicate that it could raise global economic output by $1 trillion and create 18 million jobs worldwide.  The USTR estimates that the trade facilitation element of the Bali Package will reduce trade costs by 10% for developed countries and 15% for developing countries by reducing red tape. The Bali package also includes provisions to promote development in African countries, encourage agricultural imports, and bring food security to the world’s poorest countries. It is important to note that the Bali Package is not a full realization of the Doha Round, but rather a stepping stone in the right direction.

Let’s be clear: the WTO is still struggling to maintain its relevance as the go-to forum for international trade liberalization. Many trade specialists believe that the WTO is simply too large to be effective, and its insistence on unanimity provides the opportunity for a single country to block any and all progress. Bilateral and regional agreements like the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) are becoming popular alternatives to the WTO’s gridlocked status quo. Critics say regional agreements undermine the WTO’s mission and will lead to a fragmented global trade map. Here we see the opposite.  When threatened by competition, the WTO actually stepped up. Negotiators went into overdrive, made important and reasonable compromises, and agreed on a package which will make trade easier, cheaper, and more effective—aiding the world’s poorest nations most of all.

I don’t mean to reduce the efforts of WTO negotiators and say this is a direct cause and effect of the progress made on TTIP and TPP, among other bilateral deals. There is always more to the story. A little friendly competition between bilateral practicality and multilateral ambition is a great thing. At the end of the day, both approaches have the same end goal: create jobs and sustainable economic growth, leading to a higher standard of living for all involved.