Genesis of WTO & Doha Development Round?

Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations comprised 28 Agreements. It had two components: the WTO Agreement and the Ministerial decisions and declarations.

Background

The WTO Agreement covers the formation of the organisation and the rules governing its working. Its Annexures contain the Agreements covering trade in goods, services, intellectual property rights, plurilateral trade, GATT Rules 1994, dispute settlement rules and trade policy review.
The Uruguay Round was concerned with two aspects of trade in goods and services. The first related to increasing market access by reducing or eliminating trade barriers. Reductions in tariffs, reductions in non-tariff support in agriculture, the elimination of bilateral quantitative restrictions, and reductions in barriers to trade in services met this.

The second related to increasing the legal security of the new levels of market access by strengthening and expanding rules and procedures and institutions.

So, the World Trade Organization (WTO) was foundeed to supervise and liberalize international trade. The organization officially commenced on January 1, 1995 under the Marrakesh Agreement, replacing the General Agreements on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The WTO has 153 members which represent more than 95% of total world trade and 30 observers, most seeking membership. The WTO is governed by a ministerial conference, meeting every two years; a general council, which implements the conference’s policy decisions and is responsible for day-to-day administration; and a director-general, who is appointed by the ministerial conference. The WTO’s headquarters is at the Centre William Rappard, Geneva, Switzerland.

WTO deals with
  1. Regulation of trade between participating countries
  2. Providing a framework for negotiating and formalising trade agreements
  3. Dispute resolution process aimed at enforcing participants’ adherence to WTO agreements which are signed by representatives of member governments and ratified by their parliaments.

What is Doha Development Agenda?

WTO is currently endeavouring to persist with a trade negotiation called the Doha Development Agenda (or Doha Round), which was launched in 2001 to enhance equitable participation of poorer countries which represent a majority of the world’s population.

However, the negotiation has been dogged by “disagreement between exporters of agricultural bulk commodities and countries with large numbers of subsistence farmers on the precise terms of a ‘special safeguard measure’ to protect farmers from surges in imports. At this time, the future of the Doha Round is uncertain.”

Ministerial conferences & bulwark of disagreements

First ministerial conference – Singapore 1996
After birth of The inaugural ministerial conference was held in Singapore in 1996. Disagreements between largely developed and developing economies emerged during this conference over four issues initiated by this conference, which led to them being collectively referred to as the “Singapore issues”.
The Singapore Issues were:

  1. Transparency in government procurement
  2. Trade facilitation (customs issues),
  3. Trade and investment
  4. Trade and competition.

The developing countries opposed these issues as they were not in their favours. The European Union, Japan and Korea favoured these issues and pushed them in successive conferences. US said that it could accept some or all of them at various times, but preferring to focus on market access.

Second ministerial conference : Geneva 1998
Third ministerial conference : Seattle 1999
The two conferences nothing notable could happen except that at Seattle, with massive demonstrations and police and National Guard crowd control efforts drawing worldwide attention failed the conference.

Fourth ministerial conference Doha 2001
The Doha Development Round was launched at the conference. The talks are stalled even today and impetus is on reaching a final agreement. The major impediment is different interests of developed and developing nations.

Fifth ministerial conference, Cancun Mexico 2003
This minieterial conference was called for to reach an agreement on the Doha round. However, an alliance of 22 southern states, the G20 developing nations (led by India, China and Brazil), demanded agreements on Singapore issues and called for an end to agricultural subsidies within the EU and the US. There was no progress made in this round too.

Sixth ministerial conference: Hong Kong 2005:
The sixth WTO ministerial conference was held in Hong Kong from 13 December – 18 December 2005 with an aim to reach an agreement on Doha Round by 2006. In this meeting, countries agreed to phase out all their agricultural export subsidies by the end of 2013, and terminate any cotton export subsidies by the end of 2006. Further concessions to developing countries included an agreement to introduce duty free, tariff free access for goods from the Least Developed Countries, following the Everything But Arms initiative of the European Union — but with up to 3% of tariff lines exempted. Other major issues were left for further negotiation to be completed by the end of 2010

Seventh ministerial conference : Geneva 2009
This will held in Geneva from 30 November–December 2009.

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