Doha Development Round

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For criticism see Criticism of Doha_Development_Round

The Doha Development Round is the current trade-negotiation round of the World Trade Organization (WTO) which commenced at Doha, Qatar in November. Its objective is to lower trade barriers around the world, permitting free trade between countries of varying prosperity. As of talks have stalled over a divide on major issues, such as agriculture, industrial tariffs and non-tariff barriers, services, and trade remedies.[1] 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. There is also considerable contention against and between the EU and the USA over their maintenance of agricultural subsidies—seen to operate effectively as trade barriers. [2]

The Doha Round began with a ministerial-level meeting in Doha, Qatar in. Subsequent ministerial meetings took place in Cancún, Mexico, and Hong Kong. Related negotiations took place in Geneva , Switzerland (2004,); Paris, France; and Potsdam, Germany.

The most recent round of negotiations, July 23-29 broke down after failing to reach a compromise on agricultural import rules. [3]


Agriculture has become the linchpin of the agenda for both developing and developed countries. Three other issues have been important. The first, now resolved, pertained to compulsory licensing of medicines and patent protection. A second deals with a review of provisions giving special and differential treatment to developing countries; a third addresses problems that developing countries are having in implementing current trade obligations. [1]


Agriculture has become the most important and controversial issue. The first proposal in Qatar in called for the end agreement to commit to (1) substantial improvements in market access; (2) reductions (and ultimate elimination) of all forms of export subsidies; and (3) substantial reductions in trade-distorting support.”[1][4]

Access to patented medicines

A major topic at the Doha Ministerial regarded the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). The issue involves the balance of interests between the pharmaceutical companies in developed countries that held patents on medicines and the public health needs in developing countries. Before the Doha meeting, the United States claimed that the current language in TRIPS was flexible enough to address health emergencies, but other countries insisted on new language.[1]

On August 30, WTO members reached agreement on the TRIPS and medicines issue. Voting in the General Council, member governments approved a decision that offered an interim waiver under the TRIPS Agreement allowing a member country to export pharmaceutical products made under compulsory licenses to least-developed and certain other members.[1]

Special and differential treatment

In the Doha Ministerial Declaration, the trade ministers reaffirmed special and differential (S&D) treatment for developing countries and agreed that all S&D treatment provisions “ reviewed with a view to strengthening them and making them more precise, effective and operational.” [4][1]

The negotiations have been split along a developing-country/developed-country divide. Developing countries wanted to negotiate on changes to S&D provisions, keep proposals together in the Committee on Trade and Development, and set shorter deadlines. Developed countries wanted to study S&D provisions, send some proposals to negotiating groups, and leave deadlines open. Developing countries claimed that the developed countries were not negotiating in good faith, while developed countries argued that the developing countries were unreasonable in their proposals. At the December Hong Kong Ministerial, members agreed to five S&D provisions for LDCs, including the tariff-free and quota-free access.[1]

Implementation issues

Developing countries claim that they have had problems with the implementation of the agreements reached in the earlier Uruguay Round because of limited capacity or lack of technical assistance. They also claim that they have not realized certain benefits that they expected from the Round, such as increased access for their textiles and apparel in developed-country markets. They seek a clarification of language relating to their interests in existing agreements.[1]

Before the Doha Ministerial, WTO Members resolved a small number of these implementation issues. At the Doha meeting, the Ministerial Declaration directed a two-path approach for the large number of remaining issues: (a) where a specific negotiating mandate is provided, the relevant implementation issues will be addressed under that mandate; and (b) the other outstanding implementation issues will be addressed as a matter of priority by the relevant WTO bodies. Outstanding implementation issues are found in the area of market access, investment measures, safeguards, rules of origin, and subsidies and countervailing measures, among others.[1]


All countries participating in the negotiations believe that there is some economic benefit in adopting the agreement; however, there is considerable disagreement of how much benefit the agreement would actually produce. A study by the University of Michigan found that if all trade barriers in agriculture, services, and manufactures were reduced by 33% as a result of the Doha Development Agenda, there would be an increase in global welfare of $574.0 billion.[5] Other studies present a more modest outcome predicting world net welfare gains ranging from $84 billion to $287 billion by the year.[6] [1]


Doha Round talks are overseen by the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC), whose chair is WTO’s director-general, Pascal Lamy. The negotiations are being held in five working groups and in other, existing bodies in the WTO. Selected topics under negotiation are discussed below in five groups: market access, development issues, WTO rules, trade facilitation, and other issues.[1]


The Doha Round of WTO negotiations began in November. This round was to have begun at the WTO Ministerial Conference of 1999 in Seattle, and was to have been called "The Millennium Round" but reaction to the exclusion of developing countries from agriculture negotiations resulted in failure to obtain the "explicit consensus" needed at the final Heads of Delegation meeting.[7] Extensive public protest activity coincided with the WTO's failure at Seattle to build on the outcomes of the preceding Uruguay Round. The new round was instead launched at a ministerial conference in Doha, Qatar. The new trade agenda of the developed world was dubbed the Doha Development Agenda and, from there, all countries were committed to negotiations opening agricultural and manufacturing markets, as well as trade-in-services (GATS) negotiations and expanded intellectual property regulation (TRIPS). The intent of the round, according to its proponents, was to make trade rules fairer for developing countries.[8]Opponents charged that the round would expand a system of trade rules that were bad for development and interfered excessively with countries' domestic "policy space". [9]

The round was set to be concluded in four years (December) â€” after two more ministerial conferences had produced a final draft declaration. The WTO pushed back its self-imposed deadline to slightly precede the expiration of the U.S. President's Congressional Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority. Any declaration of the WTO must be ratified by the U.S. Congress to take effect in the United States. Trade Promotion Authority prevents Congress from amending the draft. It expired on June 30, 2007,[10] and congressional leaders decided not to renew this authority for the current U.S. president.[11]


The Cancún talks—intended to forge concrete agreement on the Doha round objectives—collapsed after four days during which the members could not agree on farm subsidies and access to markets. Negotiations focused upon four key areas: agriculture, industrial goods, trade in services, and updated customs codes. The collapse seemed like a victory for the developing countries. But unlike Seattle, which prevented the commencement of the second round of negotiations, Cancun resulted in continued negotiating.

South Korean Farmers and Fisheries President Lee Kyung Hai committed suicide on the first day of the conference in protest of the price distorting agricultural subsidies of the EU and U.S. The North-South divide was most prominent on issues of agriculture. Rich countries’ farm subsidies (both the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy and the U.S. government agro-subsidies) became a major sticking point. The developing countries were seen as finally having the confidence to reject a deal that they viewed as unfavorable. This is reflected by the new trade bloc of developing and industrialized nations: the G20. Since its creation, the G20 has had fluctuating membership, but is spearheaded by the G4 (the People's Republic of China, India, Brazil, and South Africa). While the G20 presumes to negotiate on behalf of all of the developing world, many of the poorest nations continue to have little influence over the emerging WTO proposals.


The August Geneva talks achieved a framework agreement on opening global trade.[12][13] The U.S.A, EU, Japan and Brazil agreed to end export subsidies, reduce agricultural subsidies and lower tariff barriers. Developing nations agreed to reduce tariffs on manufactured goods, but gain the right to specially protect key industries. The agreement also provides for simplified customs, and stricter rules for rural development aid.[14]


Trade negotiators wanted to make tangible progress before the December WTO meeting in Hong Kong, and hoped to agree to the deal before when U.S. fast-track legislation expires. Without fast-track, it will be much harder to get a ratification from the U.S. Senate.

Paris talks were hanging over a few issues: France protested moves to cut subsidies to farmers, while the U.S., Australia, the EU, Brazil and India failed to agree on issues relating to chicken, beef and rice. Most of the sticking points were small technical issues, making trade negotiators fear that agreement on large politically risky issues will be substantially harder.[15]

By July-August an agreement was needed in order to finalize negotiations for agreement in Hong Kong. Oxfam charged the EU with "delaying tactics" which threatened to spoil the round.

Hong Kong,

The Sixth WTO Ministerial Conference took place in Hong Kong, December 13 to 18.

Trade ministers representing most of the world's governments reached a deal that sets a deadline for eliminating subsidies of agricultural exports by. The final declaration from the talks, which resolved several issues that have stood in the way of a global trade agreement, also requires industrialized countries to open their markets to goods from the world's poorest nations, a goal of the United Nations for many years. The declaration gave fresh impetus for negotiators to try to finish a comprehensive set of global free trade rules by the end of. Pascal Lamy, Director General of the WTO, said, "I now believe it is possible, which I did not a month ago."

As many as protesters demonstrated outside the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, the location of the talks. Clashes with the police left at least 116 people injured, including 56 officers, although there were no critical injuries according to the authorities. The WTO blames the demonstrations for preventing some delegations from attending the final Heads of Delegation Meeting, which approved the Ministerial Declaration by explicit consensus. The demonstrators were cleared by the Hong Kong security forces in the early morning of December 18, hours before the meeting.


The July talks in Geneva failed to reach an agreement about reducing farming subsidies and lowering import taxes, and continuation of the negotiations will take months to resume. A successful outcome of the Doha round has become increasingly unlikely, because the broad trade authority granted under the Trade Act of to U.S. president George W. Bush were set to expire in.Any trade pact will then have to be approved by the U.S. Congress with the possibility of amendments, which creates an additional burden on the U.S. negotiators and decreases the willingness of other countries to participate.[2] Hong Kong offered to mediate the collapsed trade liberalisation talks. Director-General of Trade and Industry, Raymond Young, says the territory, which hosted the last round of Doha negotiations, has a "moral high-ground" on free trade that allows it to play the role of "honest broker".


In June negotiations within the Doha round broke down at a conference in Potsdam, as a major impasse occurred between the US, the EU, India and Brazil. The main disagreement was over opening up agricultural and industrial markets in various countries and also how to cut rich nation farm subsidies. [16]


On July 21, negotiations started again at the WTO's HQ in Geneva on the Doha round of Trade. Around 40 ministers were expected at the conference and it lasted just over a week. Negotiators have continued since the last conference in June. [17] Pascal Lamy, WTO’s director-general, said before the start of the conference, the odds of success were over 50%. [18] Kamal Nath, India's Commerce Minister, was absent from the first few days of the conference due to a vote of confidence being conducted in India's Parliament.[19] On the second day of the conference, U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab announced that the U.S. would cap its farm subsidies at $15 billion a year[20], from $18.2 billion in. [21] This proposal is on the condition that countries such as Brazil and India drop their objections to various aspects of the round. [20] The U.S. and the EU also offered an increase in the number of temporary work visas for professional workers.[22] After one week of negotiations, many considered agreement to be 'within reach'. However, there were disagreements on issues including special protection for Chinese and Indian farmers and African and Caribbean banana imports to the EU.[23] India and China's hard stance regarding tariffs and subsidies was severely criticized by the United States.[24]

The negotiations collapsed on July 29, nine days after the start of the talks, over issues of agricultural trade between the United States, India, and China. [25] Pascal Lamy said, "Members have simply not been able to bridge their differences." [3] He also said that out of a to-do list of 20 topics, 18 had seen positions converge but the gaps could not narrow on the 19th — the special safeguard mechanism for developing countries. The mechanism allows countries to protect poor farmers by imposing a tariff on imports of specified goods, if the price of those goods drop or there is a surge in imports. However, the United States, China and India could not agree on the threshold that would allow the mechanism to be used, with the United States arguing that the threshold had been set too low. Peter Mandelson, Trade Commissioner for the European Union, characterized the collapse as a "collective failure".[26] On a more optimistic note, India's Commerce Minister, Kamal Nath, said "I would only urge the Director-General [of the WTO] to treat this [failure of talks] as a pause, not a breakdown, to keep on the table what is there."[27]

Several countries have been blaming each other for the failure of WTO talks.[28] The United States and some European Union members, especially France, blamed India and China for the failure of the talks.[29] However, the European Trade Commissioner, Peter Mandelson, said that India and China should not be blamed for the failure of the Doha round.[30] Some other countries, especially China and Netherlands, blamed United States for the collapse.[31]


  1. 3.0 3.1 "World trade talks end in collapse". BBC News. 
  2. 4.0 4.1 "Ministerial declaration". World Trade Organization. 
  3. With the US and the EU trying to stitch up a deal on agriculture, the developing countries complained bitterly that they were being excluded from the process.The Guardian, December 4,
  4. "Emergency Committee For American Trade". 
  5. "Our World is Not For Sale". 
  6. "U.S. Trade Representative Susan C. Schwab To Attend Meetings To Advance Doha Negotiations July 23-24". United States Government. 
  7. "Fast Track Is Dead Today". AFL-CIO. 
  8. "World trade deal gets thumbs-up". BBC News. 
  9. "Trade agreement at a glance". BBC News. 
  10. "Q&A: WTO trade breakthrough". BBC News. 
  11. "Q&A: World trade in crisis". BBC News. 
  12. Palmer, Doug; Laura MacInnis. "G4 talks collapse, throw trade round into doubt" (in English). Reuters. 
  13. "Defrosting Doha" (in English). The Economist. 
  14. "Remember Doha?". The Economist. 
  15. Beattie, Alan. "Expectations low as Doha talks begin". Financial Times. 
  16. 20.0 20.1 Palmer, Doug; William Schomberg. "U.S. offers farm subsidy cut, is asked for more". Reuters. 
  17. Beattie, Alan. "Visa offer adds to Doha momentum". Financial Times. 
  18. Beattie, Alan. "US says China, India put trade talks in jeopardy" (in English). Financial Times. 
  19. "Bad tempers flare, threatening WTO deal". AFP. 
  20. Alan, Beattie; Frances William. "Doha trade talks collapse". Financial Times. 
  21. " Dismay at collapse of trade talks", BBC News, 30 July 2008

External links


  • Cato Institute (USA) Free Trade site
  • Breakdown of the Doha Round of WTO Trade Negotiations: The Roles of Agricultural Protectionism in the United States and the European Union 58-min video of lecture by Professor Robert Thompson, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, March 15.
  • WTO site on the Doha Round
  • WTO current news site
  • Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy Regular news, analysis and updates
  • Third World Network Information and commentary
  • Bridges Weekly Trade News Digest—news from a sustainable development perspective



  • Timeline: World Trade Organisation, from BBC News
  • Larry Elliott, The Guardian, June 15, 2005, "West accused of concealing farm subsidies: Oxfam says EU and US are exploiting loopholes and using creative accounting to avoid real trade concessions to developing countries"
  • Agricultural Trade Reform and the Doha Development Agenda
  • Congressional Research Service Report on Doha Round
  • Congressional Research Service Report on Agriculture in Doha Round
  • THE HOYOS FILE: Going bananas over global trade, from Nation Newspaper, July 31

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