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

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Destruction of the Doha Round

India plays a poor hand at the World Trade Organization's negotiations.

The idea that there is no longer a sharp divide between the global North and the global South has been disproved in ample measure by the decisions taken last month in Nairobi at the 10th ministerial conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The essence of the final communique is that the 14-year-old Doha “Development” Agenda (DDA) of the Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations is now effectively dead (though not officially buried), but Doha itself is still alive and available for cherry-picking by the North at the expense of the South.

At the ministerial meeting in Doha in 2001, held in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the North—led by the United States (US) and the European Union (EU)—sold a new round of trade negotiations at the WTO on the ground that it will provide the world with a badly needed confidence booster. Doha was thrust on a reluctant South with the promise that it would be a “development” round that would deal specifically with the large subsidies given to agriculture in the US and the EU. Fourteen years later, the North has formally abandoned all pretence of a development agenda. In Nairobi it has, for the first time, refused to commit itself to the DDA. It now talks of looking at “new approaches” to explore elements in Doha (that is, use more muscle power to push ahead with those areas such as trade in services that are of self-interest) and at the same time bring “new issues” to the WTO (such as foreign investment, electronic commerce and public sector enterprises).

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