Can the Doha Round Be a Development Round? Setting a Place at the Table
35 Pages Posted: 12 Dec 2011 Last revised: 25 Mar 2021
Date Written: December 2011
A fundamental objective of the Doha Round of WTO negotiations is to improve the trading prospects of developing countries. The 2001 declaration from the WTO Ministerial Conference in Doha, Qatar, commits the member governments to negotiations aimed at substantial improvements in market access with a view to phasing out export subsidies, while embracing "special and differential treatment" for developing countries as an integral part of all elements of the negotiations. The main message of this paper comes in three parts. First, these stated aims are incompatible from the perspective of our economic analysis; thus, if these aims are pursued as stated, then we conclude that they are unlikely to deliver the meaningful trade gains for developing countries that the WTO membership seeks. Second, in attempting to integrate its developing country membership into the world trading system, the WTO may face a "latecomers" problem that, while occurring also in earlier rounds, is unprecedented in its scale in the Doha Round, and which could potentially account for the current impasse. And third, we argue that if the Round maintains its stated aims but moves away from the non-reciprocal special-and-differential treatment norm as the cornerstone of the approach to meeting developing country needs in the WTO, and if developing countries prepare, in markets where they are large, to come to the bargaining table and to negotiate reciprocally with each other and with developing nations, then it might be possible to break the impasse at Doha, to address the latecomers problem, and to deliver trade gains for developing countries.
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