ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Death of the 'Development Round'?

Fourteen years after the Doha Round was launched, plans are on to empty it of its original content.

An extraordinary effort is underway at the World Trade Organization(WTO) for preparing “a clear, detailed, modalities-like” agenda, which would replace the work programme agreed to at the 2013 Bali ministerial meet of the WTO. If finalised by the end of the month as scheduled, it will pave the way for concluding the 14-year-long Doha Round at the Tenth WTO Ministerial Conference in Nairobi later this year. But it will be a conclusion very different from the self-proclaimed Doha Development Agenda (DDA). The WTO’s Director-General Roberto Azevedo has argued that the new programme has to be based on “doability” or “what is doable for all members—not just for some.”

The United States (US) and the European Union (EU), along with their allies, have instantly embraced the director-general’s “doability” strategy. They are using it to demand “recalibration” in the level of ambition across all areas of the DDA for concluding the Doha Round by 15 December. The underlying rationale is simple: the existing mandates, particularly the revised 2008 draft modalities in agriculture and industrial goods are now seen as obstacles to concluding the Doha Round. “If any of you insists that those [mandates] are cast in stone and unalterable, then you have made a choice, a choice that irreparably condemns our efforts to failure,” Azevedo had forewarned members last year. But it was the same Azevedo who as Brazil’s ambassador had said four years ago, “The draft modalities embody a delicate balance achieved after 10 years of negotiations. This equilibrium cannot be ignored or upset, or we will need readjustments of the entire package...”

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