The Doha round finally dies a merciful death

Governments must now pursue trade multilateralism piece by piece

After a death scene so drawn-out it would have done credit to a Victorian melodrama, the curtain has finally come down on one of the longest-running farces in global policymaking. The so-called Doha round, the programme of multilateral trade talks that started in 2001, was last week declared dead by World Trade Organisation members after nearly a decade spent comatose.

The admission that Doha is no more is welcome: the talks were wasting a lot of breath, time, energy and air miles. But to preserve the negotiating function of the WTO, member governments need to pursue other ways of doing business that preserve the multilateral approach as far as possible while having a fighting chance of actually producing a deal.

Doha was launched in 2001, two months after the September 11 attacks, with much rhetoric about gestures of global unity but too little support from businesses to keep it going. It was also oversold as a “development round”, with the aim of helping poorer countries trade their way out of poverty, with a particular focus on agriculture.

Three problems rapidly became evident. One, behind the mask of solidarity between developing countries lay deep divisions, for example between agricultural net importers and exporters, preventing constructive proposals for liberalisation. Two, countries such as China transformed beyond recognition during the round, becoming global export powerhouses yet continuing to plead developing country status. Three, the US in particular proved to be largely spineless in taking on its own farm lobby, which demanded improbable amounts of market access abroad in return for subsidy cuts at home.

Doha in effect died when a ministerial meeting failed in 2008. While it continued for anotherr seven years on life support, governments, particularly the US, have pushed ahead with bilateral or regional deals. These agreements, the most prominent of which is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, are a weak substitute for multilateral deals, not least because they are often one-sided agreements written by the strongest signatory.

A better approach would be plurilateral pacts among a group of governments, expanding to more countries after their creation and eventually being multilateralised under WTO rules. Some such deals — an agreement on government procurement and another on information technology goods — are already in place.

In the months after the failure of the 2008 ministerial meeting, a group of countries moved ahead with plurilateral talks on services trade liberalisation outside the aegis of the WTO. A successful conclusion of this services deal, and then expanding it and bringing it within the existing WTO services agreement, would send a strong signal that a broad-based negotiating function is still in place.

The WTO certainly has it faults: the need to reach consensus among all countries is inimical to swift, decisive policymaking. But it remains the best forum in which to set or at least administer many of the rules of world trade. Its dispute settlement function, in which panels of independent arbiters rule on cases brought by governments, still has credibility.

Having failed to save Doha in the WTO, its members must now save the WTO from Doha. The time and energy that was poured into a failing project can now be redirected into smaller deals that can still bolster the credibility of the institution and its members.

Doha is dead. Its passing should not be mourned. It opens up the space for trade multilateralism to be reborn.

Evan Ottenfeld | Legislative Assistant and Scheduler

Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch

215 Pennsylvania Ave SE, Washington, DC 20003

TEL: (202) 454-5126   EMAIL: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Last modified onFriday, 08 January 2016 12:56
  • Rate this item
    (0 votes)
  • Published in Opinions
  • Read 12693 times

1242 comments

  • online casino

    online casino

    Comment Link Saturday, 20 January 2018 05:33

    vegas casino games
    casino online gambling
    casino online
    casino g

  • Donaldrig

    Donaldrig

    Comment Link Saturday, 20 January 2018 00:44

    autocad cabinet software
    autodesk 360
    autocad ppt download
    autodesk student
    autocad serial
    auto cad
    autocad lt 2011 license
    download autocad
    ventajas del autocad

  • Dorreta

    Dorreta

    Comment Link Friday, 19 January 2018 21:37

    generic cialis
    viagra muscle pain cialis tablets
    http://buychcialismrxonline.com
    xatral cialis online pharmacy generic
    cheap cialis online

  • Irowtota

    Irowtota

    Comment Link Friday, 19 January 2018 11:49

    buy cheap cialis
    cialis generic
    http://buychcialismrxonline.com
    buy online cheap cialis generic
    cheap cialis

  • diully

    diully

    Comment Link Friday, 19 January 2018 09:29

    cheap cialis online
    cialis pharmacy discount
    http://buychcialismrxonline.com
    cialis pills free trial
    buy cheap cialis

  • ThomasHof

    ThomasHof

    Comment Link Friday, 19 January 2018 06:15

    serial autocad 2014 64 bits
    autodesk maya
    autocad lite price
    autodesk revit
    autocad 2017 serial number product key
    autocad
    autocad lt 2011 commercial new slm
    auto cad
    autocad 2017 for mac student

  • spoolug

    spoolug

    Comment Link Thursday, 18 January 2018 23:42

    buy cialis
    generic cialis 20mg best buy cancun cialis
    http://buychcialismrxonline.com
    how long does cialis 20mg cialis
    buy cheap cialis online

  • JamesFlami

    JamesFlami

    Comment Link Thursday, 18 January 2018 22:16

    web cam adult cam sites online fucking cam sites algebra help earth science homework help solve my math how to write college application essays easy payday loans online best payday loans online easy payday loans online no credit check loans payday advance loan advance cash payday loan loans online no credit check cash advance loan webcam slut free adult chat free chat rooms free sex video chat chat sex chat sex free webcam porn sex chat chat video chat sex sex chat sex chat write essay writing a history research paper research essay college essay prompts college admissions essay research paper college paper term paper fast online payday loans the best online payday loans pay day loan cash loans online

  • Payday Loan Online

    Payday Loan Online

    Comment Link Thursday, 18 January 2018 21:34

    payday loan best bank loans no fax payday loans faxless payday loans

  • Dorreta

    Dorreta

    Comment Link Thursday, 18 January 2018 16:07

    buy cialis
    buy generic cialis soft
    http://buychcialismrxonline.com
    buy cialis on line
    generic cialis

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter the (*) required information where indicated. HTML code is not allowed.

back to top