WTO under fire over slow conclusion of negotiations


The World Trade Organization’s (WTO) negotiations arm has been criticized for its slow pace in concluding pending issues on the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) which started 14 years ago.

Speaking during the Plenary Session on the second day of the 10th Ministerial Conference at the KICC, the European Union (EU) and Australia stated that the credibility of the World Trade Organization (WTO) is at stake.

The EU commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström asked the delegates to seek for ambitious outcomes and not worry about the politics.

“The WTO has not functioned as well as we would have liked, “ stated Malmström. “We cannot repeat what we have been doing for the last 15 years and expect different results.”

Malmström noted that the EU was a strong and dedicated supporter of the multilateral trade, saying the members of the WTO have an obligation to deliver to the Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

“The issues in front of us are doable if we have enough leadership. We have set out realistic outcomes to make multilateral trade fairer,” said Malmström.

Australia’s Trade Minister Andrew Robb noted that the challenge facing the members of the WTO was to work together and create a credible outcome.

“The issues are not going to go away,” said Robb. “But the negotiating factor remains, can the WTO deliver future outcomes?”

“The WTO has not been able to agree on One tariff since the Uruguay round,” added Robb.

The Uruguay round came into effect in 1995 with deadlines ending in 2000.

Under the WTO, there are nearly 300 completed negotiations and another 100 pending.

The Doha Development Round or Doha Development Agenda (DDA) is the current trade-negotiation round of the  WTO which started in November 2001.

Its objective is to lower trade barriers around the world, thereby facilitating increased global trade.

The Doha Round began with a ministerial-level meeting in Doha, Qatar in 2001.

Subsequent ministerial meetings took place in Cancun, Mexico (2003), and Hong Kong (2005). Related negotiations took place in Paris, France (2005), Postdam, Germany (2007), and Geneva, Switzerland (2004, 2006, 2008);

Progress in negotiations stalled after the breakdown of the July 2008 negotiations over disagreements concerning agriculture, industrial tariffs and non-tariff barriers, services, and trade remedies.

The most significant differences are between developed nations  led by the European Union (EU), the United States (USA), and Japan and the major developing countries led and represented mainly by India, Brazil, China, and South Africa.

Since the breakdown of negotiations in 2008, there have been repeated attempts to revive the talks, so far without success.

Intense negotiations, mostly between the USA, China, and India, were held at the end of 2008 seeking agreement on negotiation modalities, an impasse which was not resolved.

In April 2011, then director-general Pascal Lamy “asked members to think hard about ‘the consequences of throwing away ten years of solid multilateral work’.”

Adoption of the Bali Ministerial Declaration on 7 December 2013 for the first time successfully addressed bureaucratic barriers to commerce—a small part of the Doha Round agenda.

However, as of January 2014, the future of the Doha Round remains uncertain.

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Maureen Murimi
Story By Maureen Murimi
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