The Doha 'Development' Round

Launched in 2001 at its meeting in Qatar, the Doha round of negotiations lasted for ten years without agreement. The talks were dubbed the 'development' round because of their stated claim to meet the concerns of the countries from the Global South. But this claim has not been a reality. The talks have collapsed several times, and were finally discontinued on the 10th anniversary in December 2011. Australia and some other countries are now attempting to negotiate with a smaller number of countries in particular sectors like services, but this excludes most developing countries.

Behind the spin on collapse of World Trade Organisation Doha Round - July 29 2008

Behind the spin on collapse of World Trade Organisation Doha Round - July 29 2008

The collapse of the WTO talks this week has been portrayed by the WTO, industrialised country governments and the media as a setback for the global economy, and as most damaging to developing countries. They were meant to benefit from the so-called Doha Development Round of negotiations to expand free trade. The spin also blames developing countries for the collapse.

But the spin has been undermined by the franker assessment of the financial media. Bloomberg financial analysts stated baldly that the benefits of the Doha round had been “overstated” and that the value of the round “narrowed to as little as $50 billion annually from as much as $850 billion when the Doha Round of talks began in 2001.”

Even World Bank assessments of the economic impacts of trade liberalisation show that most of this modest growth would have gone to richer countries.

Action Alert Letter - July 2008

Hon. Simon Crean

Minister for Trade

Parliament House

Canberra, ACT

WTO Mini-Ministerial Meeting: No deal better than a bad deal

Dear Minister,

The World Trade Organisation meeting this week comes at a critical point for global trading relations. This Doha round has taken seven years so far. These negotiations are drawn out because of a reluctance by industrialised countries to make offers that would truly live up to the so called ‘development' aspect of the round.

The current negotiations, labelled as ‘make or break', are taking place without 80% of the membership. The secretive ‘green room' process that is being undertaken lacks transparency and excludes many developing countries voices that are at the heart of the talks.

The new Lamy text must be rejected as it continues to undermine development by furthering the demands of industrialised countries.

The Cancun Meeting March 2004

The Cancun WTO Meeting

In September 2003 the WTO held a Ministerial meeting at Cancun, at the half-way point of the Doha Round (scheduled to go from 2001 to 2005). Developing countries had been expressing their frustration with the WTO processes and the unreasonable position of many rich countries for many months leading up to the Cancun meeting. One of the most important issues is agricultural reform.

Under WTO rules, developing countries had to reduce tariffs and open their markets to agricultural imports. But rich countries like the EU and the US have kept their export subsidies for agriculture, which lower their prices on world markets. The markets of developing countries have been flooded with cheap subsidised imports, ruining many small farmers.

Australia Driver in GATS Push - November 2005

Australia a key player in new proposal to force open service sectors
under the WTO trade in services agreement (GATS)

In the lead up to the WTO Ministerial in December in Hong Kong, Australia is playing a key role in proposing and supporting radical changes to the negotiating process in GATS. If accepted, these proposals will pressure countries to make more and ‘higher quality’ commitments in GATS. There is a growing community campaign in Australia and globally, demanding that essential services be exempt from GATS negotiations. It is feared that these proposals will undermine this campaign and will force countries to make commitments across a number of essential service sectors.

Disappointing Deal in Hong Kong

Disappointing deal in Hong Kong: Report from Jemma Bailey 19 December

The 6th Ministerial Meeting of WTO concluded on 18 December. Late in the evening on the final day of the Ministerial, we crowded around a television screen at the Hong Kong Convention Centre to watch the closing ceremony. After a week of all night informal meetings, arm-twisting and spin about ‘development outcomes’, a deal had finally been struck. A deal that offers little to developing countries. A deal that will further threaten the environment and livelihoods of the world’s poorest people. A deal that shows that these negotiations are more about meeting the demands of the most powerful governments and corporate lobbyists, than about development.

The final text can be found on the WTO website

WTO in 2011 - A Crunch year for the Doha Development Round

AFTINET has been active as usual in 2011 on the negotiations undertaken in the WTO.

17th November 2011: AFTINET sent a letter requesting that the Minister commit Australia to WTO reform which:

Facilitates Financial Stability not financial Deregulation
Focuses on Jobs and Industrial Development policy space
Maintains the right to protect policy space for development
Provides Access to Affordable Health and Medicines
Supports Food Security and Sovereignty
Protects Biodiversity and Bans the Patenting of Life
Acknowledges that WTO is not the venue for establishing climate change policy

For a copy of the letter follow this link.

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