By Annabel Palmer
At a time when many have been growing increasingly sceptical over the likelihood of the moribund Doha Round reaching a conclusion, the International Trade Committee of the European Parliament has passed a draft resolution acknowledging that “it will not be possible to reach an agreement on the outstanding issues under the Doha Development Agenda at the 8th Ministerial Conference in Geneva” this December.
This resolution may not come as a great surprise. The most recent big push to complete the Doha Round in July 2008 collapsed after failing to reach a compromise on agricultural import rules. The failure to advance the round in Mexico in 2003 resulted in a complete loss of momentum; subsequent conferences have served only to bring the discussions to a standstill. And so it seemed the 2008 breakdown would surely be the final blow to a round of negotiations that were billed as a great advance in global trade liberalisation.
However a declaration at the end of the G20 summit of world leaders in London in 2009 included a pledge to complete the development round. This attempt by governments to resurrect talks has only served to prolong the inevitable as here we are, in 2011, with the last decade having ‘sharpened divisions, not smoothed them’ (http://www.economist.com/node/18620814). Indeed, U.S. Ambassador to the WTO Michael Punke said on Monday that Doha is “deadlocked” and WTO members should begin outlining a more “credible path forward”.
Although WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy has recently made last ditch attempts to get Doha back on track (he himself having admitted earlier this year that it had reached ‘paralysis’), it is time to look beyond the Doha impasse. There is an abundance of trade-related issues that governments and NGOs should focus their energies on; for instance regional and bilateral trade deals that favour the strongest players.
The paper did try to offer some reassurances, reaffirming its ‘strong support for placing development at the heart of the DDA, and calling on WTO Members to deliver on the ambitious goals set out in the 2001 Doha Ministerial Declaration and the commitments made in the WTO Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong in 2005’. But although a conclusion to the Doha Round remains desirable, it is important to remember that despite being billed as a ‘development round’, Doha is mainly about freeing up trade between the rich countries and the middle income countries. There is little in it for the poorest nations – and that is why Trade Out of Poverty’s aims are so essential. It is one of our core objectives to have the richest countries open up their markets unconditionally and unilaterally to the world’s poorest countries.
The International Trade Committee of the European Parliament has passed a draft resolution acknowledging that “it will not be possible to reach an agreement on the outstanding issues under the Doha Development Agenda at the 8th Ministerial Conference in Geneva” this December.