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Power Politics

in the WTO
By Aileen Kwa
Updated 2nd Edition
January 2003

Edited by Alec Bamford

Focus on the Global South

c/o CUSRI, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok 10330, THAILAND
Tel : 66-2-218 7363/7364/7365/7383 • Fax : 66-2-255 9976
E-mail : • Web:
7 Introduction

11 Personal accounts by developing country


17 From Seattle to Doha: real improvements or

mere trappings of democarcy?

21 The story of Doha - reflections of developing

country delegates

35 Manufacturing consensus and what it entails

49 Post-Doha antics: laying the foundations for


57 Conclusion
Power Politics in the WTO

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has often been portrayed as the pinnacle of
the multilateral system of global economic governance.

Why it has achieved this reputation is puzzling since it is one of the most
undemocratic organizations around. Formally speaking, the WTO is a one-country,
one-vote system. Yet actual decision-making is done by a process called
“consensus,” in which the big trading powers impose a consensus arrived at among
themselves on the rest of the body. In the WTO, formal parliamentary sessions
where decisions are made in democratic institutions are reserved for speechmaking.
Real decisions are made in backrooms by informal caucuses whose members are
not determined by formal rules and votes but by informal agreement among
significant players.

This non-transparent, non-accountable system of decision-making is one of the

elements that has contributed to the crisis of legitimacy of the WTO. After Seattle,
there were expectations that reform of the decision-making process would be at
the top of the WTO agenda. Instead, the organization lurched into the Fourth
Ministerial Conference of the WTO with its decision-making structure unreformed,
and Doha has now become a byword for the perversion of democracy and the
thwarting of the will of the majority via intimidation, threat, and bribery on the
part of the strong.

This publication is an effort to throw much-needed light on this sordid process.

This much-needed study is based on extensive interviews with developing country
delegates to the Doha ministerial. This is essential reading for everyone with an
interest in one of the most powerful economic groupings of our time. For both
critics and partisans of the WTO, it makes a very powerful case that the decision-
making process has become the Achilles heel of the organization.

Walden Bello
Executive Director
Focus on the Global South

Power Politics in the WTO
Power Politics in the WTO

We are simply asking for fair and equitable rules that would
take into account our development needs and allow us to
participate fully in the trade system. But instead we risk being
pressured once again into accepting rules we don’t need and
can’t afford.

Ambassador Nathan Irumba, Mission of Uganda and Representative of the

Least Developed Countries (LDC) at the WTO.1

This is quite a remarkable statement. Six years after the founding of

the WTO, and three years after the debacle of the Seattle Ministerial,
the representative of the poorest members of the WTO feels it is still
necessary to ask for ‘fair and equitable rules’.

But the WTO prides itself exactly on being a ‘rules-based’ organization.

The argument is that without the rules of the WTO, world trade would
descend into the anarchy of the jungle. And then, we are told, the poor
and the weak would go to the wall.

This image, as we are about to demonstrate, is not true.

This paper will show that at crucial points in the WTO system, there
simply are no rules. Attempts to set ‘fair and equitable’ rules are
routinely rebuffed. Some rules are made up on the spot in a way that
cannot be ‘fair and equitable’. And the rules that do exist are commonly
flouted, not just by the rich and powerful countries, but also by the
supposedly neutral WTO staff.

But there is one respect in which the WTO scenario outlined above is
quite true. The poor and the weak are going to the wall. And precisely
because of the WTO and its rules.

Power Politics in the WTO
The claim is made not by ideologues with an ministerial. One delegate had this to say at
axe to grind, not by ivory tower academics, that time:
not by people who can be brushed aside as
anti-WTO activists. It is made by the people It is not a question of substance. Nobody
best placed to know, by ambassadors and can say that we have not participated.
government officials to the WTO. These are We have done so, and we have simply
the people who are supposed to represent the been ignored. The text [Doha draft
interests of the weak and the poor. Their own declaration] does not take our interests
words show how the South is marginalized in into account. We will not have a third
the WTO. draft, not because we have no time. The
text came in on Saturday. By Monday,
Developing countries are reduced to damage we sent a letter signed by 20 developing
control and scrabbling to secure negligible countries to make changes in
benefits. A few with sufficient negotiating implementation. And he [the Chair of
clout are given minor rewards to ensure their the General Council, Stuart Harbinson,
compliance. Most receive nothing, and silently ambassador of Hong Kong] simply
acquiesce against their better judgment, said no. We all know why he said that,
condemning themselves to the enlargement because our Ministers will have a
of a system that has so far proved to be highly difficult time. We are in the worst
unbalanced and detrimental to their own possible situation, and it is a question
interests. They do this to avoid the of politics, not a lack of arguments.2
consequences of displeasing the politically
and economically powerful. B. L. Das, former Indian Ambassador to the
GATT, also describes how developing
The marginalization of the South in the WTO countries end up compromising their own
is a serious concern. The WTO now wields interests:
executive power over 23 separate agreements,
from trade related investment measures If [developing country negotiators] feel
(TRIMS), to intellectual property rights, that any proposal is not in the interest
agriculture, and industrial goods. The Fourth of their country, they oppose it. Their
Ministerial Conference at Doha in November opposition is quite firm sometimes, and
2001 put more agreements on the table. they stick to their line almost till the very
Member states are required to change their end. But finally when intense pressures
national laws to ensure compliance with are built up in the capitals or if all other
WTO agreements. Non-compliance can countries have acquiesced in the
result in a country being hauled before the proposal, they also drop their objection
Dispute Settlement Body, the WTO’s own and remain sullenly silent. Decisions
court of law.This report presents evidence of are taken to which they become parties
the manipulation and subversion of decision- even though they had earlier raised
making and rule-making at the WTO. How is objections. And in this manner their
it that less than fair rules are endorsed by countries get bound by the obligations
developing countries? What is going on imposed by the decisions. The
behind the scene that allows this to happen? immediate political cost of withholding
We show the exact points in the process and consensus appears to them to be much
the strategies that allow the will of the majority heavier than the burden of these
to be subverted. obligations in the future.3

Unless the rules by which the WTO itself The strategies used by the powerful to bring
operates are made fair, developing countries about such an outcome are the topic of this
are unlikely to make progress in bringing publication.
more equity to any of the substantive areas:
TRIPS, services, agriculture, nor in the new The voices of developing country negotiators
negotiations launched at Doha. This was felt that appear in this paper are seldom heard
keenly by many countries before the Doha by the public. Yet they are the ones that bear

Power Politics in the WTO
testimony to the decision-making and process
problems at the heart of the trading system.
A conscious effort has been made in this
document to bring these voices to the fore.
Almost thirty interviews were conducted after
the Doha ministerial for this purpose.4 Most
delegates, out of fear of repercussions on
their jobs or pressure on their capitals, have
chosen to remain anonymous.

• ---------------------------------------
1 Speech delivered on 11 April, Geneva, cited in
South Bulletin 33, 15 April, 2002.
2 Quoted in Kwa 2001 ‘Power Politics To Cripple
WTO Ministerial’, 9 November,
3 Das, Bhagirath Lal, ‘Strengthening Developing
Countries in the WTO, Trade and Development
Series No. 8, Third World Network, http:
4 Many thanks to Fatoumata Jawara for arranging a
number of interviews.

Power Politics in the WTO
Power Politics in the WTO

Personal accounts
by developing
country negotiators

Power Politics in the WTO
In this chapter developing country trade My task, as well as that of my team, has been
diplomats based in Geneva speak about their nothing more than to seek the benefits for a
experience in the WTO, and in particular, the small economy within the ‘norms’ of the World
political pressures they are up against. The fear Trade Organization. However it has not proved
of repercussions for speaking their mind has possible. I say this not because we do not have
made it necessary for these accounts to remain the negotiating capacity with which to reach
anonymous. The italics in the quotations are our objectives, but to expose the different
ours and are intended to highlight the anti- strategies that are used to keep us submerged
democratic practices of the WTO. in underdevelopment. Within the World Trade
Organization there are many developing
countries with different levels of economic
activity, and regrettably, this has been turned
Country 1 into one of the most powerful weapons used
by the developed countries: to divide and
I come from one of the poorest countries in conquer.
the world. While it is not classified as least
developed, it has been slowly but surely The usual practice is to make promises to a
marginalised by globalisation. When we begin developing country so that it will defend the
to learn and understand how the multilateral interests of a developed country, with the
trade system works, the first question that result that the developing countries are pitted
comes to mind is: how is it that my country is against each other. Apart from that, developed
part of this immense project called countries use pressure tactics, for example,
globalisation? The task becomes more political pressures, threatening to withdraw
arduous when the sole and simple interest some type of tariff preferences and trying to
that our people have - to be able to feed the discredit the people in charge of small country
mselves - becomes a utopia. It is especially delegations in Geneva.
difficult when we see that the dirt-covered
faces are too weak from hunger to even cry. The examples are numerous: there are black
lists of enemy countries, and lists of people
We do our best to obtain the benefits that whose positions are contrary to their interests
globalisation is supposed to bring, such as and who therefore— thanks to political
special and differentiated treatment, pressures and the use of personal attacks—
technology transfer and the desperate search are moved away. Is this sovereignty or a new
for the investment that rarely arrives. We do form of colonialism?
everything, including the impossible, to meet
the obligations that multilateralism demands Many of the developing countries were not
of us — creating legislation, and even able to deal with the results of the Uruguay
mechanisms that protect the interests of round and these imbalances have become the
others — but where are our rights? corner stone of the foundations of a new
economic system. We see countries that had
never been active in the organization, now

Power Politics in the WTO
beginning to present proposals, to speak up trade system, is not the lack of capacity,
and put forward their points of view, to express knowledge or training, but the lack of
their interests, all this with the vision to provide transparency in the processes within the WTO,
the better opportunities for their vulnerable and the political abuse committed by the
economies in the world market. The result of developed countries.
much of this effort was the disaster at Seattle,
even though that was not the objective. At the Singapore ministerial conference, it
was clear that a group of delegations met in
September 11th is an act to be lamented by all secret, and drafted the ministerial declaration
humanity, but what gives cause for even without the rest of the delegations even
greater regret, are the economic benefits that knowing where they were meeting.
were extracted by the industrialized countries
out of this disaster. I would even venture to Then came the Geneva ministerial conference.
say that if September 11 had not happened, At the last moment the United States presented
the Doha ministerial declaration would not a proposal for a declaration on Electronic
have contained even half of its obligations. We Commerce, launching a work programme, and
cannot deny that many countries that were introducing a “standstill”. The majority of the
making a difference in the WTO have been developing countries opposed the proposal.
undermined, and their officials even removed, Unfortunately, I could see that little by little,
simply for raising their voices in defence of their arms were being twisted, even that of
the interests of their countries. Their requests my Minister, until only Mexico and Pakistan
were simply to have justice, transparency were left opposing. Eventually these two also
and a functioning system at the WTO. The had to give way.
result is that the WTO - a member-driven
organization - continues to be governed by The next battle was over the selection of the
bad practices and arbitrary decisions. These new director general in 1999. The first thing
are being imposed on others as a result of the that the developed countries did was to break
supreme power of a few. the gentleman’s agreement arrived at when the
WTO was being created. There was an
As for the institution itself, we have a Director understanding that after Renato Ruggiero
General whose only interest is his personal [the first Director General of the WTO], the
agenda.1 He slavishly lends himself to the new Director General would come from a
interests of the powerful countries, and is not developing country. From the beginning
interested in the developing world, which he Supachai Panitchpakdi [from Thailand] was
treats with disdain and contempt. This is clear the favourite of the majority. However, when
from the threats he has directed at various the selection process was narrowed down to
representatives of small countries. This is no Mike Moore and Supachai, the pressure put
secret, its common knowledge for those who on developing and least developed countries,
monitor the WTO closely. mainly by the United States, was indescribable.
The Chair of the General Council finally ended
What will happen now? At the moment, it is up presenting Mike Moore as the winner,
very difficult to predict the future of the small which caused indignation amongst most of
economies, but what is certain is that we have the members, who didn’t accept the proposal.
been led in the direction of slow destruction, The tortuous process of consultations that
of our customs, our economies and of the followed gave developed countries an opening,
sovereignty of our countries. and they began to put pressures on Capitals,
causing several of the small countries that had
originally supported Supachai to change sides.
Country 2 Finally, a negotiated solution was achieved:
that Mike Moore and Supachai would each
I arrived in Geneva when the WTO was first serve for three years. Mike Moore’s candidacy
formed. The experiences I have had over never had the support of majority of the
these years, have led me to conclude that the members, but it did have the support of the
biggest obstacle developing countries face in most powerful.
achieving true participation in the multilateral

Power Politics in the WTO
Then came the preparations for the Seattle the part of the WTO Secretariat, and the
conference, and the desire of the developed political pressures used by the developed
countries to launch a new round, once again, countries - mainly the United States and the
in the face of opposition by the majority of European Union.
developing countries.
After Qatar, the pressures remain, and the
During the preparations for the conference, objective of the developed countries is now to
the developing countries showed great ability undermine any possibility of the developing
and organization. The Like Minded Group2 countries presenting proposals and
was formed, led by the Indian delegation but participating effectively in the negotiations.
including developing and least developed They are trying to destroy the Like Minded
countries from all regions. The Like Minded group (LMG) which, as a coalition, attempts
Group presented more than 100 proposals on to achieve balance in the work of the WTO.
the problems related to the implementation of The pressures for changes of position and for
the WTO Agreements. the withdrawal of Ambassadors is permanent,
and has no apparent logic beyond the
I was witness to how the officials of the arguments that the delegations in Geneva act
developed countries communicated with the as the enemies of the multilateral system, of
Capitals of developing and least developed the developed countries, and even of peace in
countries, with the goal to stop the delegations the world. It is indeed incredible that in
in Geneva from continuing to speak about the 21st century, and in the context of an
‘implementation issues’. The strategy used organization in which all are supposedly equal,
by the developed countries is to confuse the that arguments like these continue to be
Capitals, making them believe that the used.
delegations in Geneva are acting as their
enemies, which causes some developing Many reforms are needed within the WTO in
countries that are not very well organized to order to address the issue of lack of
modify their positions. These are the transparency in the process, undue interference
negotiating tactics used by the distinguished by the Secretariat, and its bias towards the
trade negotiators of the developed countries. developed countries. But a change in the
thinking of these countries is also needed. If
After the failure of Seattle Ministerial they believe that they will be able to achieve
Conference, a process of building trust began better trade opportunities by excluding the
at the WTO. However, this process consisted developing countries from the system through
of little more than words. In spite of hours of underhanded strategies, they are mistaken.
discussion, work, proposals, and reasons What they will ultimately end up with will be
presented by the developing and least more poverty, migration problems, and
developed countries [on implementation violence in the world; problems that, in the
issues], the developed countries didn’t back end, will also turn against them. Globalisation
off. They held on to their position that should be a process by which all countries
everything had to be resolved through a new develop, and enjoy economic growth, peace
round of trade negotiations, something which and progress, and not a mechanism which a
most of the developing countries continued to few use to increase their wealth at the cost of
oppose. the majority.

During the preparations for the Conference in

Qatar, the pressure on the Capitals increased, Country 3
this time requesting the withdrawal of many
of the Ambassadors in Geneva, who defended The multilateral trading system is of critical
the interests of their countries, and who importance to many developing counties. The
opposed the launching of a new round. The WTO agenda has broadened with the adoption
truth is that the launch of this new round would in the Uruguay Round, of agreements in new
never have taken place if it had not been for areas of services, intellectual property rights
the lack of transparency and interference on and investment that go beyond measures of

Power Politics in the WTO
the traditional areas of GATT. With the international system respond to, and meet
launching of a new round of trade negotiations their development needs. So to assess the
at Doha, the WTO remit may be broadened effectiveness of their participation, one can
further, constraining the policy space of look at the extent to which, in practice, the
countries. WTO effectively responds to and meets the
development needs of these nations.
Prior to the Uruguay Round, many countries,
especially the LDCs, did not participate fully Another question raised is the nature and
in the negotiations - in the exchange of scope of the WTO decision-making. As to the
concessions - since LDCs were exempt from nature, WTO decision-making involves
GATT disciplines, and were not required to informal and formal consultations. There
make reciprocal concessions. But they is more emphasis on informal selective
benefited from tariff reductions negotiated consultations. Consensus is used instead of
among developed countries and preferential voting, as the means of reaching the final
access to markets of developed countries. decisions. This is despite Article IX of the
There were few demands being made on WTO Agreement, which provides for voting.
them, therefore they could not insist very much
on full participation. They were often derided The operations and activities of ‘green-rooms’
as “free riders”. remain the preserve of mostly the developed
countries. On some occasions, some
The situation has however changed developing and least developed countries may
considerably with the Uruguay Round. be invited, according to the convenience of the
Developing countries have carried on reforms circumstances. In these consultations, final
and taken on obligations required by the positions are agreed upon. These are then
WTO. Most members wish to participate adopted in the formal meetings. It often proves
fully. They feel they have a greater stake in difficult to re-open the debate in formal
the world trading system and a better claim meetings, for Chairpersons are invariably
for participating in the WTO decision-making eager to move on after being party to informal
process. consultations. There are times when some
Chairmen or officials just go through the
There is need for a systematic change. On the motion of consultations to make LDCs happy,
face of it, decisions are taken by consensus. but do not take into account their views when
However, the consensus seems to be formulating the final compromise positions.
developed in the so-called ‘green room’ Experience so far shows that developed
process, which brings together a few self- countries have most often insisted on their
selected developed and developing countries. positions while pressing small developing
There seems as to be no objective basis for countries to give up their positions. In the
selecting participants. As it has evolved, the euphoria following the conclusion of the
‘green room’ consultations have involved the Uruguay Round, the WTO was held out as a
Quad countries (US, EU, Japan and Canada), member-driven organization in which the
Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, voice of small developing countries would be
some representation from countries of equal to that of any developed country. Five
economies in transition, and from developing years on, every one knows and sees how we
countries, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Egypt, still have a long way to go in this regard.
Hong Kong (China), India, South Korea,
Mexico, Pakistan, South Africa and In the Singapore ministerial, a number of
representatives from the ASEAN countries. developed countries wanted to initiate
Until recently, the LDCs were not invited in negotiations on the ‘new issues’ (investment,
the ‘green room’. As one Ambassador of the competition, government procurement and
group pointed out, LDCs may be poor, but they trade facilitation), including labour standards.
do not have the poverty of ideas. This move was opposed by developing
countries. However, a small group of ministers
The objectives of developing countries have were assembled, and agreed on a compromise
been clear, primarily to make the existing that a study process be established. Without

Power Politics in the WTO
any debate in the Committee of the Whole and
in the plenary, the recommendation was
adopted. Equally, in Doha, developing
countries were opposed to the new issues.
But again, a group of ministers in the ‘green-
room’ gave their consent. A new round was
agreed upon, which included these very issues.
No such far-reaching decisions were agreed
on ‘implementation issues’, which were a
priority for developing countries.

In some cases there is an attempt to bypass

the Geneva-based delegates and even to
create a wedge between them and their
capitals. This unfortunately has led many
delegates to remain silent. When a delegate
feels that his career might be at risk, it affects
his performance.

The WTO is a standing negotiating forum. The

many daily meetings are perpetual negotiations
and consultations. It is a heavy schedule, one
drawn up solely on the basis of the staffing
and capacity of developed country missions
and capitals. Yet critical decisions are being
taken in these meetings. Developing country
missions are invariably understaffed and if
lucky have only a couple of persons dealing
with the entire WTO, if not the entire UN
system. For such missions, it is difficult to
participate effectively in these decision-
making processes under the current
circumstances. It is necessary to rationalize and
reduce to a manageable level, the number of
WTO meetings per week. A possible solution
to redress this is to cut down on the meetings
to reflect the capacity of developing country

• ------------------------------
1 The interview was given before September 2002. The
Director General referred to is Mike Moore.
2 An informal group of developing countries that meet
regularly on WTO issues in Geneva. Members include
Cuba, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Honduras, India,
Indonesia, Jamaica, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritius,
Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Uganda, and

Power Politics in the WTO

From Seattle to Doha:
Real improvements or
mere trappings of

Power Politics in the WTO
Formally, one can vote. But in the The WTO-official line
absence of a one-country-one-vote, and
in the presence of a decision-making Former WTO Director General Mike Moore
structure that is based on consensus and always presented the WTO as democratic,
an informal decision-making process, rules-based and member-driven. At a
I will be ignored if I raised my flag. You conference on democracy and free trade, he
will be ignored unless you are a major stated:
trading country.
The WTO system is built upon the rule
The informality of the process means of law and respect for the sovereign
that, in fact, it is a process of equality of nations. Ultimately, it is an
consultation and discussion behind open, rules-based multilateral trading
closed doors. This means that those system, built on democratic values. It is
with clout will carry the most weight. the most democratic international body
There are few countries that would in existence today...The transparency
challenge a decision that has been put and inclusiveness - which is to say the
forward as a done deal. ‘legitimacy’ of the process helps to
explain why Member governments are
At the WTO, the tradition of not taking more prepared and more willing to
decisions based on one-country-one- reach agreement when they gathered in
vote weighs against those who are Doha...
smallest and weakest. If we really want
to make a start, one area is to have Opponents of the World Trade
elections concerning procedural Organisation, who sometimes claim that
decisions. the system is ‘undemocratic’, start from
(Caribbean delegate) a basic fallacy. The WTO is not imposed
on countries... No country is forced to
sign our agreements. Each and every
Decisions of the WTO have an impact one of the WTO’s rules is negotiated
on all members and this is why the rules- by member governments and agreed
based multilateral trading system by consensus.2
requires that the entire membership is
given an opportunity to effectively
participate. The rhetoric cracks in Seattle
(Representative of St Lucia)1
The supposedly democratic nature of the WTO
was exposed in Seattle in December 1999,
when member governments at the ministerial
revolted. The ugly secrets of how the
institution actually functions became public,

Power Politics in the WTO
much to the embarrassment of the majors. questions about the democracy of WTO
The African Group, totally exasperated by their decision-making processes and proposing
marginalisation in discussions, issued a checks on the abuse of power by influential
statement threatening that they would not members.6
be part of any package they had not been
involved in discussing. This was followed by But by July 2000, the hopes of a set of binding
a similar joint communique from the Latin rules had faded. All that remained was a
American and the Caribbean countries.3 Chairman’s statement containing ‘guidelines’
rather than rules:

This was a public relations disaster for the 1) That Members are advised of the intention
host country, the United States, and the WTO’s to hold informal consultations;
then Director General, Mike Moore. The 2) That those Members with an interest in the
developed countries were quick to placate specific issue under consideration are
angry members. given the opportunity to make their views
The host, then US Trade Representative, 3) That no assumption should be made that
Charlene Barshefsky said: one Member represents any other members,
except where the members concerned
The process was a rather exclusionary have agreed on such an arrangement;
one... the WTO has outgrown the 4) That the outcome of such consultations is
processes appropriate to an earlier reported back to the full Membership
time. An increasing and necessary view, expeditiously for consideration.7
generally shared among the members,
was that we needed a process which had
a degree of internal transparency and Even though many members wanted more
inclusion to accommodate a larger and work to continue in this area8, nothing concrete
more diverse membership.4 emerged. Worse still, these minimal principles
were not applied to future processes.
The UK Trade and Industry Minister, Stephen
Byers, also said: In the initial phase of preparation for Doha,
some delegates in Geneva felt that, the process
The WTO will not be able to continue was becoming somewhat more inclusive. This
in its present form. There has to be does not mean that there was total transparency
fundamental and radical change in or that negotiators of the politically weaker
order for it to meet the needs and countries always knew what negotiations
aspirations of all 134 of its members.5 were going on. But delegates of the small
economies would be invited to some
consultations, when before they were totally
The false dawn of democracy excluded. However, the moment the powerful
countries felt the pressure, the same secretive,
After Seattle, the WTO took up these problems non-democratic and exclusive negotiating
with apparent seriousness The 2000 Chair of practices re-emerged.
the General Council, Ambassador Kare Bryn
of Norway reduced the numbers of green room This was clear from the two Mini-Ministerials
consultations in favour of small group held before the Doha ministerial, in Mexico
meetings with different members, followed by in August 2001, and in Singapore in October
‘informals’ open to all. Ambassador Bryn’s 2001. Only about 20-22 countries were invited
efforts were widely viewed by developing to each meeting. There was a small change
countries as genuine attempts at greater from previous ‘green room’ practice. The LDC
democracy. co-ordinator, Tanzania, and the African Group
Coordinator, Nigeria, were present at both
In April 2000, Ambassador Bryn presented a Mini-Ministerials. The problem was that no
discussion paper, raising fundamental country had surrendered negotiating rights to

Power Politics in the WTO
• --------------------------------------
these representatives, although it was assumed
by the influential countries that such 1 WTO WT/GC/M/57 14 September 2002 ‘Minutes of
representation was sufficiently inclusive. Meeting, 17 and 19 July 2000’.
2 Moore 2002 Speech delivered at the Conference on
Some delegates in Geneva tried to get Democracy and Free Trade, Qatar, 26 March,
invitations, but the WTO Secretariat claimed
3 December 2 1999 ‘Joint Communique’. The
no responsibility for those meetings, and the
Communique states ‘The undersigned Latin
host countries said that they were merely American and Caribbean countries, represented by
providing facilities, and were not in a position their respective ministers to the WTO... attending
to issue invitations. the 3rd WTO Ministerial Meeting... wish to declare
as follows: ... To the authorities of the Conference
The ‘majors’ realized they could not and the WTO Director General office, their express
beat the Geneva process. Developing disagreement with the way in which negotiations
countries had built capacity in the are being conducted at the Ministerial Conference,
Geneva process. Realising that they a way that shows a parallel course of action
could not put their agenda though between a discourse oriented to transparency and
Geneva, they started to have meetings the participation by the delegations, and a process
of limited and reserved participation by some
amongst a small group of Members. The
members which intends to define the scope and
first was in Frankfurt. Those who were
extent of the future negotiating round that all
invited included the Quad (US, EU, member-countries are to adopt. We are particularly
Japan and Canada), and other concerned over the stated intentions to produce a
countries sympathetic to the new round, ministerial text at any cost, including the
such as South Africa, Egypt and modification of procedures designed to secure
Singapore. Malaysia and a few others participation and consensus.’
who had opposing views were also 4 Press briefing, Seattle, 2 December, 1999.
invited. They did not succeed in 5 Guardian News Services, ‘Deadline Set for WTO
Frankfurt. Many countries sent their Reforms, 10 January, 2000.
Geneva based Ambassadors. Then they 6 JOB(00)/2551 26 April 2001, ‘General Council:
met in Coppet (Switzerland). Again, Internal Transparency and the Effective
Participation of all Members. Discussion Paper by
many Ambassadors (from Geneva) were
the Chairman’. Paragraph 3 of this paper raises an
important question, ‘While agreeing that decisions
should only be taken within the formal, open-ended
The real meeting that changed things processes established within the WTO, would there
was the one that was held in Mexico (at be a need to identify means to ensure that smaller,
the end of August). After Mexico, people consultative groups are not in any way replacing
started to see things differently. It was the formal decision-making processes of the WTO,
again a selected group. The follow-up nor perceived as substitutes for decisions by the
to that meeting was in Singapore. After whole membership?’
the Singapore meeting, the DG said that 7 WTO 2000 WT/GC/M/57 Minutes of Meetings on
it was not a WTO meeting. However, 17 and 19 July.
both the Chair of general council and 8 These are reflected in WT/GC/M/57, Minutes of
meetings on 17 and 19 July 2000.
the DG were present. They also asked
9 Interview with Aileen Kwa, 22 February, 2002,
the Singapore ambassador to give a
Geneva. Comments by Chidyausiku in this paper
brief to the entire membership. And come from this interview.
reading in the press, what transpired in
Singapore is very close to what was in
fact agreed in Doha.

This method lacks transparency and is

a relic of the GATT, where countries that
were strong trading nations, came
together and tried to push their agenda
on to others.
(Ambassador Chidyausiku, Zimbabwe)9

Power Politics in the WTO

The story of Doha -

reflections of
developing country

Power Politics in the WTO
We have been approached bilaterally we could manage. This was because we
in capitals. We are approached in did not have the capacity to understand,
Geneva. We are made to feel that we to negotiate, and to be able to decide
are holding up the rescue of the global whether the negotiations pushed to us
economy if we don’t agree to a new by certain countries, would actually
round here. lead to development in our countries.

This is a view I don’t subscribe to. I don’t In terms of preparations, there were
think negotiations will come to fruition these ‘confessionals’ with the Chair of
in time to offset any recessionary the general council, where you state
tendencies in the global economy. Nor your positions. Many such meetings
do I feel that this is going to be a signal were held. We later realized that
to financial markets. In addition, we feel something was wrong. We reiterated
that this meeting has no connection with and submitted the LDC position paper,
the fight against terrorism. And all these as well as the Abuja paper (the African
things have been put to us in a way that Group position paper). We submitted
if we don’t agree, we are not committed these to the Chair and thought that these
to those goals, which is certainly not the would be taken into consideration
case. within the Declaration.
Dr Richard Bernal, (Ambassador Chidyausiku,
Jamaican Delegate in Doha1 Zimbabwe)

The process leading to Seattle was

cumbersome. We never reached an
The battle over new issues agreement. What it did was to push the
formulation of the text till the end. This
The main fight in the run-up to Doha was the usually happens in Ministerials.
attempt by developed countries to expand
the scope of the WTO to include the so-called For Doha, they changed the methodo-
Singapore issues (investment, competition, logy to reduce the chances of failure.
transparency in government procurement and They had a Chair produce an outline
trade facilitation). The majority of developing and then the first draft. But even before
countries, overburdened by their commitments the Ministerial, the process was
from earlier rounds, were not in favour of these circumscribed and the Chairman was
issues. in the driver’s seat from the start. We
went along because we thought the
The outcome of the Doha cannot be Chair was from a developing country.
de-linked from what happened before We underestimated the kinds of pressures
Doha. LDCs and the African Group to which all Chairs are subjected to.
wanted a limited work programme that (South Asian Delegate)

Power Politics in the WTO
There were many problems for developing consultations, it was as though you were
countries in the development of the Draft just talking to the wall. They were so-
Declaration for Doha. One was the way the called ‘open-ended’ meetings. You were
Draft ignored suggestions from developing just talking and talking (but not listened
countries ‘by magic’. to). The first draft, which came,
reflected two positions. The revised
We made so many suggestions before second draft did not reflect the position
Doha, but they were ignored. In fact, of the majority. Majority of Members
the suggestions by developing countries did not agree to negotiations on
just fizzled out. We gave texts. We didn’t Singapore issues and environment. And
know where they went, but they didn’t even areas where they had strong
find their way to the draft declaration. positions were not appropriately
We were expressing our dissatisfaction, reflected.
and our disgust. Yet the Chair went (Asian delegate)
ahead, taking the draft to Doha. We
were shooting, but we didn’t know who
we were shooting at. We ended up Big farce is the word I would use. What
negotiating with the Chair, whereas are these consultations meant for?
negotiations should be amongst I attended three meetings on trade
Members. facilitation. There were a number of
Africans, LDCs and Caribbean
The onus was left on developing countries. While this meeting was taking
countries to say, “We don’t want this”. place, the Mini-Ministerial in Singapore
But the other side didn’t have to do that was happening. Of those who spoke -
because the job had already been done about 30 countries, 20-25 said “no”.
for them in the text. But it was completely ignored. But
(African delegate) there were no records. Nobody knows
who said what. Finally it depends on
the DG and the deputy DG who drafts
In the process of negotiations, We would that paragraph. So the question is that
object to a text, but it would still appear. you can have innumerable meetings, but
We would state we wanted a text added what does it reflect? Either informals
in, and still it would not appear. It was are followed more frequently by
like a magic text. formals, or what is discussed in the
(South Asian delegate) informals is to be recorded.
(Southeast Asian delegate)

We had submitted a number of drafts,

in the Like-Minded Group, the African Pressures were increased on stand-out
Group and LDCs. But our positions countries.
were not captured in the draft. Why were
we wasting our time to submit these Pressures were put on Tanzania
position papers which were not being (representing the LDCs). Even before
taken into consideration? the Zanzibar meeting (LDC meeting in
(Ambassador Chidyausiku, July 2001), the Minister was receiving
Zimbabwe) calls from the major countries,
criticising him for the tough stance he
was taking on new issues
Many delegates blamed a consultation process (African delegate)
where there was the appearance of
participation, but no substance.
A difference in some developing
There were intensive plurilateral countries’ positions started to emerge
consultations before Doha. In these as Doha approached. This was all part

Power Politics in the WTO
of the learning process after Seattle. The Secretariat was also playing the
Developed countries were responsible EU role. Within the Secretariat, it was
for a frenzy of activity going on - not only the DG. The Secretariat was
bilaterals, regional meetings, and championing a ‘Round’ all throughout.
contact with key leaders. There was If you wanted to advance your career,
greater involvement of some Capitals you had to be seen as pushing a certain
and key Ministers in the process. All line. Of course you would take the cue
this had quite a bit to do with why from the Director General.
positions changed. When Doha came (African delegate)
closer, negotiations were more
concentrated at Capital level. Chairman of the General Council Stuart
Harbinson released two drafts for Doha. The
There was also the psychological and first had two options in brackets on the new
public relations spin on the issues, showing that there was disagreement.
consequences of failure. That was Even though Members continued to express
trumpeted all the time in capitals. the same position of ‘no new issues’, the
(Caribbean delegate). second draft on 27 October 2001 was a clean
text. That is, the option of no negotiations on
new issues was removed. The text agreed to
Just before Doha, ministers from the the commencement of negotiations by the 5th
African countries that are part of Ministerial.
AGOA (the African Growth Opportunity
Act) went to Washington. When they Nigeria issued a statement denouncing the
came back, some countries’ views on second Draft Declaration
the issue of the TRIPS agreement and
public health had taken a shift towards Nigeria considers it a serious omission
the US position. However, the majority that the draft has not projected the
of the African counties were able to crucial differences in our views. This
see that the US wanted to divide the portends that there is no level
developing countries by giving a playground in the WTO if one side only
moratorium to sub-Saharan Africa on is heard in arguments and on issues that
the implementation of TRIPS. We had affect all our countries.2
to scuttle that. We saw this as a ploy to
divide developing countries. We said no. As we shall see later, something then happened
We have been fighting this as developing to make Nigeria change its opinions on this.
countries, and they should not divide us.
(Ambassador Chidyausiku, So how could a text that had not been properly
Zimbabwe) approved go to the Doha Ministerial?
Ambassador Chidyausiku of Zimbabwe
Some of the pressure came from the
supposedly neutral WTO Secretariat itself. When we had failed to agree on the
document that had been drafted by the
Then came arm-twisting as the Chair of the General Council, the
ministerial approached. This was done question then was how to send a
by the US, EU and Director General document that had not been agreed
[Mike Moore]. The DG started calling upon by the membership.
individual ambassadors on Saturdays
and Sundays, asking them for their Because of the lack of procedures, the
cooperation, because he needed a new Secretariat advised the Chair that he
round. was able to send it on his own
(Asian delegate) responsibility. Stuart Harbinson [the
Chair] said that he had consulted with
legal advice in the Secretariat, and he

Power Politics in the WTO
cited the case of Ruggeiro [the first Once in Doha, another procedural rabbit was
WTO DG], when he sent a letter to pulled out of the hat - facilitators.
Ministers in Singapore.
When we got to Doha, the agenda was
But this was in fact false. Even though not in place. The Chair of the
Ruggiero had indeed sent a letter on his own Ministerial (Minister Kamal of Qatar),
responsibility to the Ministers, the General suddenly announced there would
Council had not been by-passed. There were be facilitators to facilitate the
many brackets in the draft declaration that was negotiations on issues and themes
sent to the Singapore Ministerial, and similarly that were problematic. How they chose
for Seattle. Ambassador Chidyausiku again. the facilitators and themes, nobody
knew, and those facilitators were
We felt that this should not be the case. ‘Friends of the New Round’ - Mexico,
In 1999 when we sent the draft Singapore, South Africa and Canada.
declaration text to Seattle, the Chair of If facilitators are people with a definite
General Council (Ali Muchumo) had interest, they would definitely steer the
brought the text to the General Council, meetings in certain directions, and the
and he got the approval of the General small consultations held by them were
Council to transmit the text to Seattle. not inclusive. People had problems
At that meeting, the representative of getting into those consultations. In the
Hong Kong (Stuart Harbinson) stressed selection of facilitators, how were they
that he should accommodate all views chosen? Who were they facilitating?
expressed, not only what was in the (Ambassador Chidyausiku,
draft, but what was discussed in the Zimbabwe)
General Council. Two years later, (as
Chair himself), he ignored that and gave
his understanding to the Ministers The process itself was strange. Right
without brackets. We felt it was an after first plenary, there were facilitators
affront to all the norms of international that were chosen without consultation
negotiating procedures. In the UN, the with members. And even these
issue of brackets when there is no facilitators were partial. I remember
agreement is standard procedure. There attending one meeting with the
are brackets until you agree. This was facilitator on agriculture (Singapore
disregarded to give the ministers a clean Minister) one evening. He said that the
text. We felt it was not fair. Ministers text transmitted from Geneva was
are not equally endowed in the agreed upon and there was only one
understanding of the technical issues. problem - the ‘phasing out’ of export
But the other side insisted on sending subsidies by EU. He did not meet in an
this document to ministers without open-ended session. And his position
brackets. When the Chairman came to was that the text itself was like a house
the General Council, he was told he of cards, it should not be changed or it
had to include the different views that will fall like a house of cards.
had been expressed. In the end, the (South Asian delegate)
compromise agreed to was to do a
covering letter to the Ministers. This he Committee of the Whole (COW)3 plenary
did, but it did not meet the concerns of meetings were also seen by some as merely a
developing countries. show of transparency.

So rather than a text with options, reflecting We held COW informal meetings and
genuine disagreements, what went to Doha occasional meetings with the
was a clean text, falsely implying agreement, facilitators. There was an appearance
and a very brief cover letter superficially of consultations. And that is where
noting objections. Ministers would make statements. My
question is, how much of it would be

Power Politics in the WTO
taken into account? My reading of this one cannot really complain that you
was that it was made such to make were not represented. The problem is
Ministers happy, when negotiations that those particular representatives
were going to go elsewhere. came under a considerable amount of
(LDC delegate) pressure. In my view, as a result of those
pressures, rather than to advance the
views for which they were there, at the
In Doha, the spin-doctors had realised end, they became more defensive to sell
that in Seattle, Ministers felt ignored, the views from the other side. Some
and developing countries were prepared couldn’t take the pressure. One or two
to bite the bullet. In Doha, they created even began advancing the views of the
a process, where Ministers could go to Secretariat.
the Committee of the Whole (COW) and (African delegate)
discuss and raise issues, but nobody was
taking into account what they said. They
were just venting their frustration. That
feeling of being part of the process The impartiality of the Secretariat was again
dented their anger of being uninvolved. in question.
But in fact, there was a smaller group
taking the decisions for the whole. The Chairman to the Ministerial
Those managing Doha kept Ministers Conference himself did not know
in a semblance of being involved in the anything. He was only a ‘yes man’,
process, when they were not, because saying or doing what the DG was telling
what was discussed in the Committee him. The DG would even tell him to give
of the Whole was not reflected in the the floor to somebody and not to give
Declaration. The views, which were the floor to somebody. It happened so
captured in the Declaration, came from many times. He would say, ‘Don’t give
people who were pushing on him the floor’, with the Chairman’s mike
environment and ‘new issues’. The on.
Ministers felt part and parcel of the (Asian delegate)
process, but were not involved in real
(Ambassador Chidyausiku, Pressures mounted as heads of state were
Zimbabwe) contacted. According to an African delegate,
Africa stood together. What broke Africa in
the final two days, was when the US and the
There were also problems around the issue of EU contacted Presidents and Prime Ministers
representation. While the big economies of some African and Asian countries. As a
were allowed to represent themselves, for the result, delegations in Doha receiving calls from
smaller economies, at the most critical their capitals. The US exerted much pressure
moments, only the representatives of the on the President of Pakistan, who gave
groups were included. Yet the African, LDC instructions that the Ambassador softens his
and ACP countries had not relinquished position. As a result, Pakistan played a meeker
their negotiating rights to their group role than they would have otherwise done.
representatives, nor were they consulted on
this issue. British Prime Minister Tony Blair called Indian
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee at
These presumed representatives then came midnight of November 13, 2001, when WTO
under severe attack by the powerful countries. Members were in the final stages of
hammering out a Ministerial Declaration.4
Key ministers were selected to represent
groups - Nigeria for the Africa group, Blair: I just wanted to say very briefly that we
Kenya representing the ACP countries, would very much like to get the trade
Tanzania, representing LDCs. Therefore round agenda agreed at Doha...I believe

Power Politics in the WTO
we go 142 out of 143 countries now 13th November was supposed to be the last day
signed up. of the Ministerial. Many developing country
Vajpayee: Hmm...Hmm delegates are critical of the fact that they were
Blair: We really need India to do this now. not party to any decision-making process about
I hope very much...that you will be able prolonging the meeting. Unfortunately, by the
to find a way through, Sir, because evening of the 13 th, many Ministers and
otherwise it will be, I think, a great shame, delegates, who could not change their travel
if this round fails as a result of that. plans, had already left Doha. One Latin
Vajpayee: How many countries have signed? American delegate told us that she and her
Blair: I am told that now 142 out of 143 Minister had under-estimated the pressures
countries...can sign up that could be exerted at the last minute. They
Vajpayee: Oh, that is not the situation Mr. left on that evening, feeling totally confident
Prime Minister. We are having discussions that the logjam could not be broken.
with other developing countries and there
is a lot of opposition... Back in the Conference Centre, Zimbabwe’s
Blair: Then I have been told the wrong thing... Ambassador and another member of their
but I think... but that’s certainly what I delegation tried again to enter the ‘green room’
have been told sir... I was just going to on the 13th, but were barred.
say if there is anything at all you can all to solve the issue, we would be, We tried to get into the ‘green room’
I think, everyone will be extremely during the first session on the 13 th
grateful... (about 7pm). They would not let us in.
Vajpayee: We are trying to do that. But... the The security was provided by the
Cabinet before the Commerce Minister Secretariat. They had a list of people
left, had given a brief to the Commerce who could go in, and those who could
Minister...And he is in Doha... he is to not. When we tried to go in we were
follow that. But I hope there will be some refused entry. So when you say that
solution at the end of the talks. consultations are open ended, it is not
Blair: I hope so too. That’s all that I wanted to true. These were not. It was a group of
say to you, Mr. Prime Minister. ‘executive’ countries.

On this final night (13th), my Minister

had to force himself in. The Chairs of
The final two days... and nights the African Group, ACP and LDCs
(November 12th and 13th) came to report to the bigger group that
evening. It was after that meeting that
Two major ‘green room’ meetings were held, my Minister joined the other Chairs
one on the night of the 12th, and another on going into the ‘green room’. That was
the night of the 13th. at about 11 pm. He saw how this was
operating like a mafia. He could not
The DG [Mike Moore] told Ministers of the speak since he was not officially invited
invited countries that only two members to the consultations. He could not
from a delegation could enter the ‘green room’ contribute. He could only give notes to
i.e. the Minister and one other. It was no his colleagues to intervene.
coincidence that they kept the room small.
There were only 23 countries present in the
We tried to go there [on the night of the critical ‘green room’ of the 13th, where the final
12th]. They just took in the African deal was sealed. They were: Australia, Brazil,
Group representatives. The other Botswana, Canada, Chile, Egypt, the EU
African countries included were South (Pascal Lamy), Guatemala, India, Japan,
Africa, Egypt and Botswana. Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan,
(Ambassador Chidyausiku, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland,
Zimbabwe) Tanzania, Uruguay, USA, Zimbabwe, Chair of
the General Council (Hong Kong), and the DG.

Power Politics in the WTO
While most delegations were only allowed two Note that the burden of proof had shifted
representatives, the US apparently had five. from those making new proposals to those
not wanting them.
Most developing countries had been excluded
and some of those present were debarred from Since the developing countries (e.g.
speaking. And then the gloves came off, with Nigeria) failed to speak up on that
the supposed referee, the WTO DG, taking final night, the EU took the chance to
sides. According to a delegate who was in the push through all their issues. Now the
‘green room’: EU argues that all the four issues
(investment, competition, trade
Even though the Chair of the facilitation, transparency in government
Conference (Qatar’s Minister Kamal) procurement) are part of the single
was there, it was mainly the DG who undertaking.5 In the final ‘green room’,
was negotiating on behalf of developed it was only the EU’s position that
countries. The Canadian Minister, prevailed. They kept raising their
Pettigrew, was so insolent to the extent ambitions, and developing countries
of insulting the Minister of India were not able to stop them on that.
(Murasoli Maran). At one stage, when (Asian delegate)
Pakistan and India were pushing on
the issue of textiles, Pettigrew was It was widely reported that while Nigeria had
almost shouting at them, ‘we have given earlier been quite firm in its opposition, it
you almost everything. You guys are suddenly went silent in this final meeting,
blocking things. You have to be clearly unable to withstand political pressures.
A developed country delegate offered a
Another delegate confirmed: different perspective:

At the last night, the pressures were At 6 or 7 am in the morning, the meeting
tremendous. It came at the highest level, was still on and we had pulled it all
right from the top in Capital, and it was together. We asked if we had gotten a
specific. People were being targeted by deal or not and the Africans (Africa
name. So it was quite brutal. Group, ACP, LDC) said they felt they
had nothing to say to their colleagues
The Indian Commerce Minister Maran outside the room because they could not
was insulted by two countries in a ascertain what was agreed upon. They
most brutal way. And then, the DG said something like ‘you guys have
[Mike Moore] joined in saying ‘We pulled one on us again’. That was when
have agreed to the ATC (Agreement on there were pretty tough exchanges.
Textiles and Clothing), what more do Minister Maran of India was not happy
you want?’ It was a brutal exercise of with the situation. There was tough
power. language being used at the end of the
An Asian delegate adds:
An African delegate, reflecting on the outcome
The DG [Mike Moore] also asked the of that last night said :
Indian Commerce Minister, why he
could not agree to the text on They got the deals they wanted because
environment. He said, you have to be of sheer fatigue on our part. They have
reasonable. Maran said, ‘When I go big delegations and they can stagger
back, how can I justify this to my people. But for us, we don’t. It is very
people?’ DG said, ‘Well, you have to difficult to go on negotiating day and
convince other people around the table.’ night for several days without sleep.

Power Politics in the WTO
While developing countries’ delegates inside The last day (14th November)
the meeting were being negotiated to
exhaustion, those outside were left in the dark. In the process before Doha, We had a
magical text. In Doha, it got worse.
We waited till 9 or 9.30 pm that night. Texts were coming, but were not being
We did not know what was going on and inserted. Then on the last day, we were
we finally decided to go back to the told, here is the text.
hotel. We left a message that when the (South Asian delegate).
COW convenes, to call our hotel. You
are representing a country and it is
humiliating and ridiculous for you to The ‘green room’ of the 13th produced an
hang around in the corridor. It shows outcome that was clearly different from the
that there is something wrong with original positions of the Africans and LDC
the process. If you cannot enter, then countries, causing a lot of confusion and anger
something should be done to give you amongst many. An ACP/LDC/African Group
information. Who gave legitimacy to the meeting took place on the 14th, when the text
meeting? Was it decided in the COW to from the ‘green room’ was presented. An
extend the meeting? No, it was only a African delegate has written the following
small group of people. account.

Another said: A feeling of deep disappointment and

betrayal filled room, which was packed
It was a sad day for us. It was like with African and some Caribbean
Seattle, We were sidelined, except that delegates. The document in front of them
they succeeded in the end. It was all very was much worse than all previous
quiet and we were taking turns keeping documents. Everyone was anxious to
shifts (through the night) and kept going hear about what had transpired the
downstairs to find out whether anything previous night. In the room were
had come out. And we didn’t hear Ministers and Heads of Delegations
anything till 6 or 7 am. Our Ambassador from Botswana, Dominican Republic,
was briefed by another Ambassador. Egypt, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Jamaica,
Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and
An EU member state delegate said : Zimbabwe. The Nigerian Minister was
chairing the meeting. He started by
Developing countries find themselves thanking all the Ministers for their
excluded because they didn’t speak up participation in the nightlong gruesome
(in the earlier consultations). It is not negotiating process. He then gave the
that we wanted to exclude them. floor to the South African Minister of
Trade (Alec Erwin) to give explicit
When pressed about the fact that there were information on how they came to this
those who wanted to get into the ‘green room’ complete change of position, especially
but could not, he justified the exclusion with on the new issues.
the following:
Minister Erwin said that this was the
Everybody wants to be in for the kill, best bargain that we could get out of
but if you have to do a deal, you must this conference. He said that
make a decision about who the people negotiations are all about of give and
are who really carry an opinion. take. ‘If we are not ready to give away
something, issues where we have made
some considerable gains, especially
‘implementation’6 might fall away.’ He
said he was of the view that the group
had to make a tough decision and take
the time constraints into consideration.

Power Politics in the WTO
On ‘new issues’, he explicitly said that and she said that this was where the
all we have been asking for, since the group’s heaviest weakness rested. She
Singapore ministerial (in 1996), was applauded the technical assistance from
more time to be able to understand the Erwin and Egypt’s Minister Butros
issues and to avoid going into Ghali, and the fact that delegations were
negotiations immediately. According to not intimidated by the challenges they
him, the revised document on the table had faced. She invited all countries to
captured these elements completely. He accept the document. In his turn,
said that the two years prior to the Fifth Tanzania’s Minister Simba pointed to
Ministerial Conference would give us the fact that the present group had
enough time to build our capacity and mandated the selected representatives
understand and analyse the issues at to negotiate on behalf of the group. The
stake. group should therefore accept the
In addition to that, the fact that the basis
of a decision on modalities of Back in plenary last-ditch effort was made to
negotiations were going to be taken include the views of developing countries.
by ‘explicit consensus’, was strong According to Ambassador Chidyausiku:
enough for us to be able to block the
negotiations at the Fifth Ministerial On that final day, in the Committee of
Conference. Those countries that were the Whole, we tried to say that we did
carried away by his eloquence clapped not want negotiations on the ‘new
at the end of his presentation. Others issues’. The first country that raised
who were familiar with the position of the issue was Barbados. The other
South Africa on ‘new issues’ were countries included Cuba, India,
obviously furious, and ready to jump in Jamaica and Zimbabwe.
to take the floor.
We said that we wanted an amendment
Among those who found the revised to the Draft Declaration that would
draft acceptable were Botswana, Egypt, effectively represent the position we had
Kenya, Mauritius, and Tanzania. taken in the consultations. Otherwise,
there would be no consensus. When
When Belize was given the floor, the these objections were raised, the
representative of this country demanded Committee of the Whole was adjourned.
to know what really transpired over- The DG [Mike Moore] was locked up
night for the group position to move with the Indians negotiating on how to
from a position against new issues to a break the impasse, but not the others.
new much weaker position. He said that Only when they struck an agreement
the group had made no gains at all but with India that the Qatar minister would
had lost the battle. Jamaica echoed give a clarificatory statement on the
the same sentiments. Other countries launching of negotiations on new issues,
which supported Belize and Jamaica did they send the Secretariat to advise
included Burundi, Cuba, Dominican the others (who were still opposing the
Republic, Grenada and Zimbabwe. text). The Secretariat said that it was
There were other silent supporters of not possible to amend the Declaration
this group, who cheered each time an at that juncture, and that Minister
opposing voice took the floor. However, Kamal would give a note to explain his
Alec Erwin and other supporters of the interpretation. We said an explanation
document were not ready to give up. was not enough. We wanted something
Minister Seretse from Botswana, as that was binding. I wanted something
the Vice-Chair of the Ministerial written, which says that this was the
Conference then took the floor. She agreement of the meeting, rather than
acknowledged the group’s lack of have an official saying that this was the
technical capacity at ministerial level, understanding he had.

Power Politics in the WTO
Kenya said that there were a number of compromise. It was as though they
issues they were not happy with, such were alone, although they had a lot of
as the issue of the formation of the Trade sympathies.
Negotiating Committee (TNC). We were (African delegate).
told that it was too late. Alec Erwin (Mi-
nister from South Africa) said that we
couldn’t start bringing these amend- A frequently asked question after Doha was
ments in at the final hour, because it why developing countries agreed to such a
would unravel all the agreements that bad deal. Ambassador Chidyausiku explains:
were struck in the ‘green room’. Our un-
derstanding, however, was that nothing They said that if you don’t agree to the
is agreed upon until everything is agreed. inclusion of new issues, you don’t get
the TRIPS and Health Declaration and
The Secretariat also said that it was the ACP-waiver. The other source of
too late to bring in an amendment. pressure was that no minister was
prepared to be blamed for the failure of
That is how they came up with the Doha, and standing in the way of
explanation from the Chair on his fighting terrorism. There was so much
understanding about the new issues.8 pressure during negotiations that they
did not have the guts to say, as far as
Once the opponents had been bullied into my national position is concerned, this
submission, it was necessary to manufacture is not in our interest.
the appearance of consensus.
Even India felt that they could not afford the
You could see that once they thought price of sanctions that would have otherwise
they had agreement on the final day in resulted. An LDC delegate said :
the Committee of the Whole, they
arranged the order of the speakers to My perception is that some had
make it seem as though there was a instructions not to stand in the way.
consensus on the ‘new issues’. India Many were honest enough to say, we can
and a few countries wanted to speak press, but we were told not to stand in
on the question of modalities (of the the way, Kenya and Pakistan, for
‘new issues’). They arranged speakers, example. Some could only go up to a
and speakers were given the floor certain point.
literally to set the consensus. Although
India had raised its flag first, 6-7 Technical assistance was offered to the losers.
speakers who were in favour of This supposedly is to compensate for the weak
consensus were given the floor one bargaining position of developing countries.
after another. And when a country had But does it address the real problem?
spoken, somebody would clap. A Ambassador Chidyausiku:
number of countries had intended to
speak up against the status quo (on On the way to Doha, we developing
‘new issues’), but eventually when they countries became victims of our own
saw how the groundswell was argument. We said that we couldn’t go
organized, they either backed off, or into the new issues, because we don’t
toned down. In that environment, it understand, and we don’t have the
would be seen as though you were a capacity. That was part of the problem,
wrecker. That is common, anyway, to but not the main problem. It is not that
arrange a certain viewpoint to appear we can’t negotiate. We can build our
that it is the dominant viewpoint... negotiating skills. But are we in a
position to determine that what we
So they orchestrated this speaking order negotiate would be good for our
and put India under great pressure to development?

Power Politics in the WTO
Our trading partners were quick to would stamp out terrorism. His message was
notice this line of thinking, which is taken up promptly by two other traveling
weak. If you cannot negotiate, we will emissaries, Director General Mike Moore and
give you technical assistance. This will EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy.
give you capacity to negotiate. That is
not what developing countries want. It The fight to launch a new round of trade talks
is not just the ability to negotiate. before Doha was thus shifted away from
Negotiations can give you opportunities negotiations primarily carried out in Geneva,
but unless you can take advantage of to talks with heads of states and trade ministers
those negotiations, it is pointless. in the capitals. Launching new trade talks and
security issues, before only remotely
The countries that are going to give you connected, became one and the same cause.
[technical assistance] are interested in
investment and competition, where they Many developing countries suddenly found
want developing countries to be themselves in too vulnerable a situation to
engaged in negotiations. We want continue opposing the US and EU. No matter
technical assistance to address major how ludicrous the link between a new round
obstacles for our trade. What we need and the fight against terrorism, countries were
is technical assistance to address tiptoeing around the threat of being charged
supply-side constraints. We cannot take with supporting terrorists. The US and EU
advantage of markets available when WTO trade agendas, though starkly self-
we are sinking in debt. interested, became a small concession in
return for continued good political relations
We blinked when it came to technical and being part of the new coalition against
assistance and that was the problem. terrorism.

Developing countries also found it hard to Long-time WTO analyst, Chakravarthi

risk the possibility of not securing the WTO Raghavan has suggested (with some humour)
waiver for the EU/ACP Cotonou Partnership that the new round could more accurately
Agreement, giving special access to EU be called the ‘Bin Laden round’. One
markets. Ambassador Chidyausiku: representative from an African country related
in a personal interview that indeed, during
We blinked again, when they said, if bilateral negotiations between US and
there is no progress on negotiations, developing countries during Doha, Zoellick
there is no waiver. would always reiterate to his counterpart
that calls had already been made to the capital
Even if there are other areas where we and that the prime minister or president had
had problems, we had no moral ground already assured him that all efforts to help
to say that ‘although you have given us combat terrorism would be guaranteed,
the waiver, we can’t go along.’ So that (including launching a new round).
became a problem, linking the successes
of the Doha ministerial conference to According to Stuart Harbinson, Chair of the
the granting of a WTO waiver. And those General Council at the time,
preferences are only there for five years.
There is a certain amount of feeling that
the events of September 11 were a bit
of a threat to the world and to the
The impact of September 11 on established way of doing things in the
Doha world. And it was important for
multilateral institutions, not just the
Post September 11, US Trade Representative WTO, to be seen to be operating
Zoellick, toured the world, meeting with successfully. So I think that put a bit of
Presidents and Prime Ministers, with the extra pressure on people to have a
message that a new trade round and free trade result.

Power Politics in the WTO
It was a positive effect in getting an door). One source who was present in the
agreement. I didn’t feel that in Geneva. ‘green room’ said that Minister Rafida was
But some ministers might have been very much on the side of developed countries
more willing to compromise as a result and ‘implored the Africans to go along with
of that. It wasn’t a tangible thing - just the deal.’ It is not clear what Malaysia
a bit of a feeling. received, but some package was indeed doled
out to them. Since September 11, they have
September 11th was not the only factor that may also been cooperating closely with the US on
have softened up the opposition to the Doha the ‘war against terrorism’ in Southeast Asia.
round. Here we look at selected countries and
note changes in their position and other events Due in large part to Pakistan and Malaysia’s
that may be significant. reticence post-September 11, the Like Minded
Group (LMG) 10 arrived in Doha in a much
While Pakistan continued opposing a new weaker position. While some members, such
round, their position on the launch of as India, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Jamaica,
investment talks seemed to have become more Dominican Republic were still opposing a
nuanced post September 11. This came at the new round, the LMG was not able to hold a
same time as intense talks were held on what united position in this area.
Washington termed the ‘one billion dollar plus’
aid package to reward Pakistan’s support of The other country that played a significant role
the US in Afghanistan. The package was in the outcome of Doha was Nigeria,
concluded and signed on November 15, a day representative of the African Group in Doha.
after the conclusion of the Doha ministerial. Their position pre-Doha, and even during
President Musharraf was in Washington while Doha, underwent a 180-degree shift on the
the ministerial was underway. In addition to final day of the ministerial. Did September
offerings by the US, the EU too, offered to 11 play a role here? Perhaps, although ties were
match their concessions to Pakistan in the already close between the US and President
area of textiles. The EU removed all tariffs on Obasanjo, which no doubt would have
apparel, and increased quotas for Pakistani constrained Nigeria’s ability to resist US
textiles and clothing by 15 per cent until 2004.9 pressures. Nigeria receives more aid from the
In addition, Musharraf of course also received US than any other Sub-Saharan country. It
recognition and political legitimacy by the has also been receiving aid from USAID to
international community as the legitimate restructure the military. After September 11,
leader of the country. the country experienced ethnic clashes
between Muslims and Christians in some
According to Pakistani sources, however, the areas, and US military presence in the Niger
US has inflated the package, which may only Delta region increased (in order to guard the
amount to US$146 million per year for 3 years. interests of US oil companies).
An analyst said, ‘Washington is inflating the
figures to impress the Pakistani people’. The Like Nigeria and Kenya, Tanzania, as a
Pakistan minister in fact publicly announced representative of the LDCs were also
that he was extremely disappointed with the pressured. Entering the ministerial, Tanzania
outcome of the package. represented a united position on ‘no new
issues’, yet on 14 th November in the
Many developing countries that were opposed Committee of the Whole, Tanzania said that
to a new round were extremely disappointed they had a ‘sense of happiness’11 with the
by Malaysia’s silence in Doha. Malaysian outcome of the Doha Development Agenda.
officials up until August had been one of the A week after Doha, the World Bank and IMF
most articulate countries speaking up against agreed to debt service relief for Tanzania
new issues. Yet, by October, it was reported in for US$3 billion under the Heavily Indebted
the international press that Minister Rafidah Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative.
supported an opt-in opt-out investment
agreement (the EU’s attempt to get a full A couple of Caribbean countries - Barbados
investment agreement in through the back and Jamaica - tried hard to stalemate the final

Power Politics in the WTO
package. They probably went as far as they with EU’s interpretation, given the Chairman’s
could go, without blocking the consensus. The clarification made at the closing session of the
Caribbean countries were in a much weakened Ministerial. Minister Kamal said,
political position after September 11. Their ‘I would like to note that some delegations have
requested clarification concerning Paragraphs
economies were hard hit by the significant
20.23,26 and 27 of the draft declaration. Let me
drop in tourism, particularly from the US and
say that with respect to the reference to an ‘explicit
EU. Just before Doha, an IMF aid package was consensus’ being needed, in these paragraphs, for
handed to them to help them cope with the a decision to be taken at the Fifth Session of the
fall-out in the tourism sector. The war on ministerial conference, my understanding is that, at
terrorism, anti-money laundering and the that session, a decision would indeed need to be
narcotics trade are likely to have influenced taken by explicit consensus, before negotiations on
how far these countries could go in their trade and investment and trade and competition
opposition at Doha. policy, transparency in government procurement,
and trade facilitation could proceed. ‘In my view,
India’s commerce minister Murasoli Maran this would also give each member the right to take
fought a brave fight to the end. Unfortunately, a position on modalities that would prevent
negotiations from proceeding after the Fifth
the accusation of supporting terrorism if they
Session of the ministerial conference until that
continued opposing the new round may have
member is prepared to join in an explicit
contributed to India’s decision finally to back consensus.’
down when they found in the last ‘green room’ 6 Implementation issues refer to developing
that they were indeed alone in that group. They countries’ proposals on bringing equity to the
would also have had to bear the brunt of the Agreements that resulted from the Uruguay Round.
political / trade costs had they held up the In fact the give-and-take here did not come out
talks, very likely in the form of trade sanctions equal. All that the developing countries won at
by the majors. This was perceived to be too Doha on implementation was in ‘best endeavour’
costly domestically. language, therefore it is non-binding, and
dependent on the good will of the developed
Indonesia came under pressure from Japan countries, which a year on, has still not
materialised. For example, the July and December
regarding accepting negotiations in
2002 deadlines for agreement on strengthening
investment. The week before Doha, Japan
Special and Differential Treatment provisions for
made a bilateral agreement with Jakarta developing countries have not been met.
offering investment. This was made on 7 Seatini internal files, 2002.
condition that Jakarta agrees to an investment 8 See footnote above on Chairman’s Clarification.
agreement at the Ministerial. 9 Textiles makes up over 60% of all exports from
Pakistan. Pakistan exports to the EU amounted to
• --------------------------- 2.3 billion Euros in 2000. The expansion of quotas
1 Christian Aid Press Release, 11 November, 2001. would boost Pakistani exports to Europe by US$ 1
Part of the text was used in an article in the billion over the next four years. The removal of
Guardian, ‘Developed world accused of bully-boy tariffs would eliminate duties to the tune of US
tactics at WTO’, 12 November 2001. $150 million a year (Corporate Logo, 17 October
2 WT/GC/W/454; 2 November, 2001 ‘Nigeria’s 2001, BBC News, 22 October 2001).
Reaction to the Revised Ministerial Text’, 29 10 An informal group of developing countries that
October, 2001. meet regularly on WTO issues in Geneva. Members
3 Plenary meetings convened at WTO Ministerials include Cuba, Dominican Republic, Egypt,
composed of the entire membership. Honduras, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kenya,
4 Hindustan Times, 7th December, 2001. Malaysia, Mauritius, Pakistan, Sri Lanka,
5 The single undertaking means that all the different Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.
agreements have to be negotiated and adopted as a 11 Notes from Maud Johansson, Member of the
single package. In the earlier draft of the 13th, the ‘ Swedish delegation.
new issues’ were not part of the ‘single-
undertaking’. However, the EU post-Doha has been
arguing that in the final text that was adopted, the
new issues are a part of the ‘single undertaking’
since the declaration refers to
‘negotiations’. Many developing countries disagree

Power Politics in the WTO

consensus and
what it entails

Power Politics in the WTO
Is consensus decision-making really As one Southeast Asian delegate observes:
Many developing countries think that
Article IX.1 of the Marrakesh Agreement consensus is good, because we can
establishing the WTO says: singularly say no. But in reality, this is
used against developing countries. Only
The WTO shall continue the practice of the US or EU can say no. No single
decision-making by consensus followed developing country, or even a small
under GATT 1947. Except as otherwise group, can say no.
provided, where a decision cannot be
arrived at by consensus, the matter at Another Caribbean delegate had this to say:
issue shall be decided by voting.
A formal decision-making process
Decision-making at the WTO is carried out which is based on consensus, and which
using the rule of ‘consensus’. While voting is has no strict rules of procedure,
endorsed, this rarely took place in the life of becomes slightly vague at the edges. It
the GATT, and has never happened at the requires superhuman conviction of one
WTO. of the members to oppose what the
major countries want. It is easy to think
In theory, consensus means that a single that decision-making by consensus
member, no matter who, is able to object to, allows anyone to prevent a decision
and hold up a decision on any issue. This from being made. But actually that is
theoretical understanding is also used by the not what it effectively means.
Secretariat and the influential countries as
evidence of the WTO’s democratic nature.
The process of manufacturing
In practice, consensus is assumed when there consensus
is no formal objection to a decision by any
Member present at the meeting. It does not Decision-making essentially takes place in
mean active agreement, merely the absence of ‘concentric circles’. First, the US and the EU
objection. Silence is therefore taken to mean come together to decide on a common position.
consent. Consensus decision-making can be The circle is then expanded to Japan and
democratic if and only if countries are free to Canada. They make up the ‘Quad’. After this,
voice their dissent. In practice, the power the circle is enlarged to include other
politics at play in the WTO means that dissent developed countries, followed by friendly
by any one country in a formal meeting, and developing countries (e.g. South Africa, Chile,
the consequent blocking of consensus, is rare. Singapore etc). This group is sometimes
known as ‘Friends of the Chair’. And finally,
other influential developing countries, such as
India and Malaysia are brought on board, since

Power Politics in the WTO
they carry weight, and it would be impossible possible by the huge differences in power
for the ‘majors’ to leave them out. China, a between the players. We will here look more
new member, also falls into this category. The closely at 3 strategies.
majority of developing countries never make 1) Institutional and procedural deficiencies
it into this circle of decision-making.1 that marginalise the majority
2) Use of bilateral threats to silence deve-
This is achieved through informal meetings. loping country negotiators
Since Seattle, there has been more awareness 3) The bias of the WTO Secretariat.
of the need to include more countries than
the usual 20 -30 members. However, the
choice of which countries to include is left
entirely to the Chair. The Secretariat is often Section I
enlisted to help in this task, even though the
Secretariat should be neutral. There are no
rules binding the Chair. Members are invited Institutional and procedural
for consultations. Those not invited would
deficiencies that marginalise the
not even be informed and even if they did find
out and wanted to join the meeting they may
well find themselves stopped at the door.
A significant number of delegations
This is how texts suddenly ‘appear from experience outright exclusion from con-
sultations, or are included only on some issues
nowhere’ before important meetings, since
and not others.
consultations have been taking place without
the knowledge or inclusion of many countries.
Bulgaria, for example, took strong objection
When the Chair is sufficiently confident that
to their exclusion from the process of selecting
his/her compromise package (supposedly
coming out of the informal consultations) will the Trade Negotiating Committee (TNC)
Chair. Their statement is evidence of the extent
not be openly objected to by the majority,
of non-transparency.
informal general council meetings (of the
entire membership) are convened. If objections
The representative of Bulgaria,
remain strong, the decision goes back into
referring to the Chairman’s statement
informal consultations. Finally, a formal
(which appointed Mike Moore, the
General Council meeting is convened and the
Director General as the Chair of the
decision is taken there by consensus i.e. no
TNC), said that he had received the
member present objects.
document in the informal meeting just
prior to the present meeting, and his
So, although the decisions of the WTO affect
delegation had not been involved in its
the lives of people in all member states, the
process of decision-making is quite arbitrary
and dependent on the Chair and those countries
His delegation had made it clear that it
that have influence over her/him (usually the
wished to be involved in the informal
consultations on the negotiating
structure and other aspects, but it had
This process of manufacturing consensus
been excluded from those consultations
requires the developed countries to ensure that
and its views were not reflected. The
when the final package is brought to the larger
state of internal transparency in the
membership, the ground has already been
organisation needed to be improved.
prepared so that no matter how unhappy the
The problem of transparency in the
majority is, no single country will formally
negotiations needed to be dealt with in
reject the package.
a much more specific way through the
adoption of clear and explicit rules.2
This is achieved by an elaborate mixture of
strategies of marginalisation, influence-
peddling and even outright coercion, made

Power Politics in the WTO
One African delegate, exasperated with the Harbinson’s consultations were
system said: centered on the positions of the big
players. He is somebody who says he
There are some developing countries is consulting and building consensus.
who are involved in the consultations It is like the same person being the
on all issues. They invite us only for accountant and the auditor. You are
some issues, but they invite another everything. Even if there is a mistake,
country to all. That is unfair. They you are auditing the books and you
should ask who is interested in this don’t see it. A number of countries made
issue, and when I raise my flag, I get a noise that they were not being consulted
ticket. on the selection of Chairs for the
negotiating groups in the TNC. There
The non-existence of binding rules on the must be more transparency in the
conduct and role of the Chair has given the consultations. Maybe you make a table
Chair enormous powers. Experience has - you consulted 50 countries, and what
shown that arming the Chair with such a broad their positions are. You have to show
space works against the interests of developing everyone the results of the consultations.
countries. The Chair essentially has the ability Right now, only Harbinson can tell you
to decide whether or not to consider all what he did. There is no proof that he
positions equally, or to give prominence to one has consulted with delegations, and
or two positions over others.3 This may depend there is no proof that they have agreed.
on the personality, or ideological leanings of So the real decisions may have been
the Chair, or it may be affected by the pressures made by very few. We have to have a
exerted on him/her. system that we can monitor.

One developing country delegate relates his Regarding the selection for the Chair
experience: of the General Council (for 2002,
Canadian Ambassador Sergio Marchi),
In a situation where so many decisions Harbinson came to the African group
are taken informally, and different to say that most members expressed
weights are given to the views of reservations, but we don’t have anybody
different players, and the Chair follows else for the job. This is the best we have.
these unwritten rules, it is much harder When it is a one-man show, it depends
to get your input to the text than some on what the man wants, not what the
players. There are no rules, which say group wants.
that all inputs submitted in writing must
be distributed and reproduced. So you Given the critical role of the Chair, the Majors
have to work twice as hard to get your have tightly controlled the procedures by
input into the draft as another member. which Chairs are chosen. A well-known
example is the way the names of the facilitators
In a revealing statement about the need for the chosen during the Doha Ministerial seemed
Chair to be fair to all sides, the Philippines to have ‘popped up out of nowhere.’
The lack of rules keeps the decision-making
The TNC Chairman should not interfere process vague and serves the interests of the
in these substantive discussions in powerful. One delegate echoes this sentiment:
one way or another, nor should he resort
to so-called ‘Friends of the Chair’ Power is best exercised in a situation
ostensibly to facilitate or promote of uncertainty and unpredictability. And
consensus.4 that is why the rules are so vague. One
direction the institution can take is to
Another delegate from Africa, obviously wary begin to chip away at the procedural
about the extent of powers the Chair can vagueness and uncertainties.
‘arbitrarily’ exercise said:

Power Politics in the WTO
When we spoke with Stuart Harbinson about translated into practice, by providing
how he, as Chair, pulled through the Doha opportunity to all members to
preparations with so many countries objecting participate in the work of various
to the introduction of new issues, he had this Councils and Committees throughout
to say: all the stages. It has been suggested that
this form of inclusive participation in
If you operate that way and put out a the decision making process might affect
Chairman’s draft, you have to be rather efficiency, but I personally believe that
sure that you have got a right feel of the democracy should not be sacrificed at
situation, and are putting out a position the altar of efficiency.6
that the majority would at least tolerate.
If you don’t do that, you are in serious Opposing views are not taken seriously. One
trouble. African delegate said:

The key word here is ‘tolerate’. Consensus Sometimes when you have consultations,
now seems to mean that you ‘tolerate’ you can see that the guy is just going
decisions, not agree to them. through the motions, and your views are
not going to be reflected.
Even though Ambassador Kare Bryn
recommended in July 2000 that open-ended Another delegate said:
small group consultations should be annou-
nced and open to all, ‘small group informals’ By the time you are consulted, they have
are regularly held without announcement. It already done consultations with the big
is therefore difficult for delegates to find out countries. The truth is that you are
what consultations are taking place, where and fighting against the proposal already
between whom. This system works against agreed by the big guys and the person
those who are already resource-strapped and who is doing consultations is defending
have to spend time and effort simply trying to that proposal. I have seen people say
find out what is going on. I want this 15 times— the same thing—
but Chairs do not pay attention. If this
Small group meetings are usually justified is not something already agreed before
with the claim that they are open-ended, and that meeting, you can be sure that you
no final decision is made at them. The final cannot get it.
proposal is presented to the entire membership,
and a decision is taken when members who This view is echoed by a Southeast Asian
are opposed can, in theory, object. delegate:

One Egyptian delegate has pointed out that The real decisions are not made even in
there is a stark difference between decision- ‘green rooms’. We get called to ‘green
making and “decision-taking” that is not being rooms’ in ‘consultations’. The real
acknowledged.5 In reality rights are given to decisions are made during cocktail
an exclusive group to make decisions, while parties and dinners. Those [green
the majority is only brought in at the end, to rooms] are trappings of democracy and
accept or reject the final decision. consultations.

The rationalization for small group meetings A surprising amount of WTO business is
is always “efficiency”. A Kenyan delegate conducted in an ‘informal’ mode, off the
had this to say: record. This adds ambiguity to the process and
provides unnecessary space for the ‘majors’
Developing countries consider that to influence interpretations of these
efforts should be made to ensure that ‘ ambiguities to suit their concerns.
juridical equality’, which the rule
(consensus decision-making and one-
country-one-vote) aims to ensure, is

Power Politics in the WTO
As one Geneva-based ambassador explains: A South Asian delegate says: ‘Efficiency is
pursued at the expense of democracy when it
The real difficulties are addressed suits the big powers.’
informally without records and the
formal meetings are mere rubber Unnecessarily short decision-making
stamps. So it is difficult to find records timeframes disallow democratic consultations
that cover an issue and give a sense of at a national level. For example, at the Doha
history of the issue and the real Ministerial, the final Draft Declaration was
substantive differences that members presented to the Membership on the morning
may have had, because all of that has of the 14th November, and adopted later that
happened in informal mode. Someone afternoon. Many elements, such as the text on
coming in 10 years from now will have environment, were new.
no idea of the history of an issue. All
you have are little minutes of the formal Real democracy means consulting not only
meetings. with the trade ministry or government in
capitals, but a broad range of stakeholders.
This is very important because when my When efficiency is prioritized before
successors come, they will have nothing democracy, special interests can prevail over
from the past that can help them to the interests of the majority. This may be the
understand the present. It is very rich countries over the poor, or an elite in rich
important institutionally. But the WTO countries over the rest of their population.
has a preponderance of informal
meetings. There are a huge number of The representative of Bulgaria highlighted
them. this problem after Seattle.

Developing countries suffer from acute staff The two key factors were information
shortages that limit participation. In 2000, and time. The purpose of informal
24 countries had no permanent presence in consultations should be to give
Geneva. The average delegation of a delegations sufficient information
developing country is 3.5 compared to the about the proposals made, including
developed countries average of 7.47. Even this drafts tabled, and an opportunity to
3.5 figure is misleading, since most developing interact and exchange views with other
country delegations not only cover WTO, but Members. There should be sufficient
a range of international organizations in time to enable Members to identify their
Geneva. For WTO alone, there are easily 40- interests and formulate their positions.
50 meetings to be covered in a week. Each proposed draft decision should
be tabled sufficiently in advance so
Even the most active and articulate delegations that Delegations could contact their
are severely short of staff. Their expertise is Capitals and a process of coordination
in no way comparable to that available in with domestic agencies and
developed countries. In addition, developed constituencies could be undertaken.
countries obtain detailed information from
their corporate lobbyists. As a result, they One of the most important lessons,
know the economies of their trading partners, which Members could draw from
often even better than government negotiators Seattle, was to avoid last minute
of those countries. proposals agreed between some
members in exclusive small group
This asymmetry gets accentuated even further meetings. The present time-frame for the
when the agenda is set at such a pace that even submission of proposals twelve hours
some developed countries can barely keep up. before the respective meeting was
Developing countries just fall by the wayside, inadequate for a transparent and
or are simply unable to participate in all the inclusive decision-making process.
debates affecting their interests.

Power Politics in the WTO
One LDC delegate, recounting her experience Even on the issue of instituting a Trade
at a WTO meeting on LDCs and the Proposal Negotiating Committee, there was a lot
on the Integrated Framework, said, of Capital representation. It is difficult
to get your Minister to understand.
We (LDCs) said we haven’t studied it You cannot give him all the facts... it is
(the proposal presented by the difficult to tell your Minister that he
Secretariat). But it was adopted. I is on the wrong track and he is
wanted to make changes, but we were undermining his own negotiating
told there is no time. There is a position.
propensity by the Secretariat to
introduce things just there and expect Yet another delegate, relating his failed
you to endorse it. But when it concerns attempt to stop his minister from agreeing to
developed countries’ interests, they say, the Doha package, said:
‘we have to refer to Capital. We have
just received it today.’ They are rushing Our biggest problem is our Ministers.
us. They want to make sure that things, When you advise them, they don’t
which are not in our interest, are pushed understand. Just before the document
through quickly. But on their part, they was adopted, I pointed out to my
want more time. Minister the number of areas that are
being subject to negotiations. There
Delegates returning from the Doha Ministerial, were about 16. How do you expect me
pointed out that developing country Ministers to handle all this? And you are coming
are at a grave disadvantage. here to agree to establish other
subsidiary negotiating groups. How do
One delegate said: you expect us to cover that when we
aren’t able to follow even the regular
I’m not satisfied with Ministers being meetings?
involved every two years. I think that
except for the ‘Lamys’ (EU trade
commissioner) and the ‘Zoellicks’ (US
trade representative), there is no real Section II
engagement with the WTO except every
two years when they are almost being
parachuted into the process. How do Bilateral pressures, self-censorship and
you exercise your Ministerial oversight coercion
in a judicious manner, when you don’t
know how this organization works?
They don’t know how the Secretariat is The most effective exercise of power:
composed, how decisions are made. self-censorship
If we are going to involve Ministers
in a fair manner, there must be on- Pressures by the powerful countries are
going engagement with the institution. exerted, either in Geneva, or in Capitals, on
I do believe we are at a serious those countries that resist, to lay the ground
disadvantage. You have a small group for ‘consensus’. These pressures inevitably
that are intimately involved, and a take place under the tightest cloak of secrecy.
larger group of Ministers that are pulled Those exerting these pressures would certainly
in occasionally, but have little or no not want a broader constituency to find out
knowledge. about their backroom threats. Those being
threatened would also be too fearful to speak
The lack of knowledge of how the institution and risk worse reprisals. Others who cave in
really functions also puts Geneva-based under pressures would also not want their own
delegates in a weak position to counter domestic constituencies to find out exactly
pressures put on their Ministers. An African what they gave in on, and the paltry deals they
delegate said: may have received.

Power Politics in the WTO
Secrecy therefore characterises this aspect They will say, there is this boy working
of negotiations, so that the very existence, against the interests of the US, he is
extent and effect of these pressures are infringing on the good relationship
seldom brought up, when one talks about between US and....
decision-making. This can be termed as the
‘subterranean’ 8 component of trade The political changes after September 11
negotiations, as opposed to the ‘official’ reality increased this climate of fear. In February
(decision-making by consensus, consultations 2002, one delegate said:
etc). These subterranean deals are a crucial, if
not the most critical, component of decision- Everybody is really cautious about the
making at the WTO. Bilateral pressures are political atmosphere in the world. As
used to quell resistance so that the final you can see, they are using the events
package presented to the membership is of September 11 in a really rotten way,
accepted. to put pressure on us. Everybody is
afraid in so many ways. Nobody wants
Fear of reprisals, whether explicit or not, leads to come out and risk their necks. It is a
to self-censorship. The powerful exert little really, really difficult situation.
or even no public effort; yet, to a large extent,
they control the behaviour of others. If self-censorship does not work and countries
are prepared to speak up for their own interests,
Self-censorship, the inability to voice pressure will be applied in a variety of ways.
objections, puts in serious doubt the
democratic principles of WTO decision- Often, pressure is exerted in Capitals. The
making. According to one analyst: missions of either the EU or the US usually
play a key role, sending the message to their
Many developing countries point out host countries about the line they need to toe
that they often fear the consequences of to protect EU or US interests. One delegate
expressing their objections publicly, said that the US Ambassador in his Capital
and hence choose the alternative of visits Minister after Minister, delivering the
remaining silent. As the absence of same message about the country’s position on
objection is seen as consensus, WTO issues, which the US is unhappy about.
developing countries end up giving in Before Doha, several countries received letters
to decisions that they actually have from the resident US ambassador in their
problems with. If a similar situation Capitals outlining the type of positions they
were present in a domestic political would like the country to take in order to
system, i.e. people were too intimidated ensure the ‘success’ of the talks.
to exercise their vote or express their
opinions, it is doubtful if the system One delegate relates how such pressure tactics
would be classified as a democracy... if are played out:
consensus is reached because some
countries are too afraid to express their The US ambassador in my country
dissidence, how democratic is decision- addressed a seminar. ‘It is in our interest
making by consensus?9 to enact intellectual property
legislation. It will send the right signal
A delegate from an LDC, referring to this fear, to investors.’ When he meets a Trade
and therefore the inability to take a strong Minister, he will say, ‘you must reform
position in negotiations said: your custom procedures; you must
support an investment agreement’.
Why do you think we performed this way When he says investment, my Minister
in the last two years on TRIPS [not will jump. Nobody goes beyond, into the
raising any major objections]? If the US next stage. On the surface, it is easy to
phones my Capital, they will not say, sell some of these ideas to Ministers. If
there is this boy, he is trying to change they say, you have a longer time-frame
TRIPS for the interests of his country. to implement, we will give you technical

Power Politics in the WTO
assistance since we recognize your the following Monday, only four countries
stage of development, my Minister will were left. Most of the others had received
say, what is wrong? Then we will not instructions from Capital not to stand in the
look at whether the agreement is way. One delegate told a group of his friends
inherently balanced or biased in favour that he could not appear publicly to be seen as
of the developed world. It happened in standing in the way of Mike Moore.
the Uruguay round. This is going to
happen. During the Agriculture negotiations in early
2002, a developing country trade negotiator
Another delegate lamented that there are four on agriculture was told by his US counterpart
powers in her country. They are the judicial, in Geneva that he would not be the one that
legislative, and executive powers and the the US would deal with, but that the US will
embassy of the US. deal directly with his Capital.

Key Ministers are earmarked by the Quad to Negotiators who refuse to buckle-down come
break the ranks of developing countries. This under immense personal pressure. If the
was an important strategy of Mike Moore and official remains consistently ‘difficult’ the
the US and EU in their preparation for Doha. Majors, such as Washington, then pressure the
In Africa, for example, four countries and their capital to remove the official. One delegate
Ministers were systematically courted and feeling the heat of such pressures lamented:
quite successfully roped in: South Africa in
the South, Egypt in the North, Kenya in the These are dishonest practices. How
East, and Nigeria in the West. can we negotiate like that?

A wedge is driven between negotiators in On 1 February, 2002, the trade journal

Geneva and their Ministers, considerably ‘Inside US Trade’ reported that the US Trade
weakening the ability of countries to hold on Representative was even singling out specific
to a negotiating position. One delegate Ambassadors.
explained the preference of the Majors to lobby
at the Ministerial level in Capitals, and the US trade representative Robert Zoellick,
resultant division that this causes: speaking to a business group on
January 31, took note of Pakistan’s role
There is a Geneva-Capital divide. The in the Geneva fight (TNC structure), but
big countries recognize that Geneva attributed it to its Ambassador Munir
negotiators know the complex issues, Akram not the Pakistani government
and the nuances, so they have found as a whole. “The TNC process has had
it effective to bypass us and go for ‘some stumbles due to our good friends
decision-makers at other levels who in Pakistan, where the Ambassador
won’t see the complexities and nuances. clearly doesn’t pay attention to the
people [in the Capital],” Zoellick said.
Another delegate explains how Capitals are
brought in: Other Ambassadors and delegates have also
come under attack, and have been removed
If they see that you are serious about from Geneva. The Egyptian ambassador,
an issue then they will call the big guys Fayza Aboulnaga, for example, did not return
and send a complaint (about you) to to Geneva after the Doha Ministerial. She was
Capital. That is the way it works. promoted to the position of Junior Minister.
The talk in Geneva, however, is that she was
This strategy of lobbying Ministers continued removed for the positions she held. A Central
even after Doha. According to one delegate, American Ambassador lost his job after Doha.
it was a Friday (in January 2002) when the It is commonly known that several other
issue of giving the Chair of the TNC to Mike Ambassadors are now walking the tightrope.
Moore was heatedly discussed with many The strategy seems to be one of making these
delegations raising objections. However, by negotiators the ‘enemies’ of their own people.

Power Politics in the WTO
Loans or preferential trade access are held It was made emphatically clear to us
hostage to whether or not a country continues that any USTR support in other areas
to keep their ambassador in Geneva. of mutual interest would be subject to
our support in Geneva.
Although the Secretariat is supposed to be
neutral, the previous Director General Mike In another case, a letter by US trade
Moore himself played a role in threatening representative Zoellick to a developing country
‘stubborn’ delegates in Doha. In one such Ambassador just three days before the Doha
instance, Moore asked the official if he wanted Ministerial stated:
to be consulted or terminated.
My deputy in Geneva, Ambassador
Those in the line of fire find themselves Linnet Deily, is working hard to lead
spending an inordinate and wasteful amount successful talks. We have been
of time accounting to their Capitals why they discouraged that (your country) has so
are taking the positions they do in the consistently, and so vocally, adopted
negotiations. The very real threat to their jobs positions counter to those of the United
and careers has the palpable effect of toning States. We would very much appreciate
down what these officials are willing to say in the cooperation of your team there (in
negotiations. Doha) in helping move forward issues
of common interest.
Many developing countries are dependent on
the EU or the US for a significant proportion An African country delegate even said that
of their export market and fear that bilateral pressure to support a ‘new round’ was put on
trade relations will be affected. them using the threat of withholding entry
visas to the US.
Small countries like us will be just
caught in between. We cannot take the Developing countries also fear withdrawal of
floor and oppose. We will never do that. preferential trade relations.
There will be a lot of repercussion: 35%
of our exports go to the US. Of textiles, One African country delegate, who was clearly
60% goes to the US, so we just have to unhappy with the outcome of Doha, was asked
keep our mouths shut. what prevented his country from blocking
the final consensus.
US trade representative staff, for example,
plays a key role in one way or another to Well, we have preferential arrangements
threaten countries. According to leaked with the EU on beef and sugar. They
documents from Washington, the Ambassador would have removed that. There is
of a developing country related the threats he nothing worse than being poor.
had received from the US trade representative
as follows: Kenya, in 2001, wanted to legislate
compulsory licensing laws domestically, and
During the course of the meeting... was told by the US, that if they do so, they
several comments (were made) on (our) would be not be in a position to enjoy benefits
position in Geneva with regards to the associated with respect to being a member
WTO issues, such as export subsidies, of the list of countries eligible for the African
textiles and clothing, and access to Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA).
medicines under TRIPS...At one point
during the conversation, ...[it was An LDC delegate offered this perspective:
expressed] that the USTR was in the
process of defining a list of those The kind of intimidation that Africa is
countries that were friends of the United undergoing... all these things depend on
States and those that were not, and (our your level of development and poverty,
country) at this point, most certainly, and how much you get from the other
was not on the list of friendly countries. guy. The main one (tool to intimidate),

Power Politics in the WTO
which is used, is preferences.10 That is Unfortunately, there is a clear institutional bias
the main tool of coercion. As long as towards the positions taken by the developed
African countries continue to depend on countries. As a result, there is a significant
these big countries, the relationship will amount of mistrust of the Secretariat, on the
be lopsided. part of developing country delegates.

To an Asian delegate: One delegate returning from Doha had this to

say about the Secretariat:
It is a weapon used by the developed
countries to control the rest of us. “You When the big guys come together, it is
better behave, otherwise you are out of almost impossible for the developing
this”, they say. When that happens, one countries to resist that kind of combined
sees one’s interest only. Why should I pressure. But it is not only the big guys.
rock the boat? GSP is never binding and The entire brain power of the Secre-
is voluntary. They may provide it if they tariat was used to engineer the outcome
want to. But they are not compelled. of Doha.
They can also change them overnight
because they are non-binding. What else The Secretariat is predominantly from the
is the 30111 for? developed countries. Of 512.5 posts, 410.5 are
occupied by individuals from developed
Aid and investment may also come under countries. Some developed countries and
threat. An African LDC trade negotiator says: members of the Secretariat justify the
composition as historical, from the days when
Aid for some countries makes up 40 or the organization did not have as many
50 per cent of their budget, so that the developing country members. But there is no
threat that aid is cut is extremely clear policy, for example, to rectify the current
serious. Therefore while I might brush imbalance by giving priority to applicants for
this threat aside, my Finance Minister jobs from developing countries. There is also
would not. As long as we are dependent the ideological leanings of the professionals
on aid support, it makes us very employed, that is, neo-liberal economists.12
The institutional bias of WTO staff is seen in
their support for one particular means -
increased trade liberalization - rather than of
Section III the ultimate goal as stated in the very first
preambular paragraph of the Marrakesh
Agreement Establishing the WTO:
WTO secretariat bias
Recognizing that their relations in the
field of trade and economic endeavor
Article VI.4 of the agreement should be conducted with a view to
establishing the WTO states, raising standards of living, ensuring full
employment and a large and steadily
The responsibilities of the director growing volume of real income and
general and of the staff of the Secretariat effective demand ...
shall be exclusively international in
character. In the discharge of their Many in the WTO Secretariat do not seem to
duties, the Director-General and the accept that there are cases where trade
staff of the Secretariat shall not seek liberalization will not achieve these goals, nor
or accept instructions from any the right of countries to decide when this may
government or any other authority be the case.
external to the WTO. They shall refrain
from any action which might adversely One person holding a high rank within the
reflect on their position as international Secretariat had this to say about the
officials. Secretariat’s ‘neutrality’:

Power Politics in the WTO
When you say neutral, we need to ask The higher management would
on what? We are not neutral with generally discourage publication by the
regards to liberalisation versus Secretariat of any papers that express
protectionism. We do not believe in the views that go against the negotiating
introduction of new subsidies for positions of the major players. The
example, or things that are antithetical officials themselves may be reluctant to
to the agreements that the Secretariat do so, because they fear that this may
is supervising here. If you are talking affect their long-term career prospects.
about neutral with regards to the Further, the experience has shown, that
position of countries on the introduction if any official persists in pursuing
of new issues, e.g. labour standards, yes. approaches, that in their view are in the
But when it comes to the objectives in interest of countries with weaker
our mandate, then I would say we are bargaining positions, but not favoured
not neutral. by the major players, the latter build up
pressures through complaints to the
Vinod Rege, a retired senior officer of the higher management and require them
GATT Secretariat, and currently a consultant to shift to other assignments.14
in the Commonwealth Secretariat makes these
observations: In recent times, the Secretariat has moved
beyond caution and circumspection. The role
The US and the EU exercise, at present, of Director General Mike Moore in canvassing
overall hegemony over the activities in for a new round before Doha, and after that,
all these three organisations (WTO, on pressing for negotiations in the New Issues,
IMF and World Bank). angered many developing countries.

WTO officials take pride in saying that Moore wrote in the Financial Times (18
they are the only international February 2002) that it would be in the best
bureaucrats who remain true to the oath interest of developing countries to accept rules
to remain neutral which all persons in foreign investment, competition, and
joining the international civil service transparency in government procurement. In
have to take. They express no views and the eyes of many, this was blatantly taking a
take no sides. They only prepare factual position that should be left to members and it
papers that provide the basis for further discredited him. Many also said that
discussions and reports reflecting the he played a major role negotiating on behalf
main points made in the discussions. of the EU, in the most critical moments in
The responsibility for taking views lies Doha.
entirely with the Member States acting
jointly in the meetings of either the According to certain sources, Moore also
council or the committees. politicised appointments within the Secretariat.
For example, Chiedu Osakwe was promoted
This, of course, is a fiction; it is to the position of Director of the Technical
promoted because it suits the interests Assistance division in June 2001, according
of both the Secretariat and the Member to some sources, for his strong support of
States. In practice... because of it being Moore during the time of the election of the
a Secretariat of a negotiating body as Director General.
well as a body responsible for the A bias in WTO technical assistance and advice
settlement of disputes, the officials tend is also perceived. WTO analyst, A. Narlikar,
to be more cautious and circumspect in in her study on decision-making processes at
expressing opinions and weigh carefully the WTO came to this conclusion:
the possible reactions of member states
in expressing opinions on subjects on The limited technical assistance
which differences of views exist among programmes and legal advice by the
member states.13 WTO has already attracted criticism
from developing countries on the

Power Politics in the WTO
grounds that it is biased and attempts is used as instrument of control in negotiations.
to redefine their priorities irrespective 11 Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 provides the
of the ‘real’ needs of the governments.15 United States with the authority to enforce trade
agreements, resolve trade disputes and open
foreign markets to U.S. goods and services. The
Minutes of meetings are inaccurate. One
“special 301” allows the US to determine whether
African delegate says, ‘they write what they
policies and practices of foreign countries deny
want you to say, rather than what you actually adequate and effective protection of intellectual
said’. property rights, or what US deems as fair and
equitable market access for U.S. persons who rely
The Secretariat is overly involved in the on intellectual property protection. Various lists
drafting of negotiating texts. That they do categorising countries are created: priority foreign
provide the drafts is well known. ‘Inside US country, priority watch list etc. GSP can be
Trade’ reported: terminated or trade sanctions imposed when a
country is deemed guilty.
Secretariat official Evan Rogerson, who 12 Narlikar, A. 2001 ‘WTO Decision-making and
played a major role in drafting the Developing Countries’, South Centre TRADE
Working Papers 11, November.
Ministerial Declaration laying out the
13 Rege, V 1998 ‘Developing Countries and
new agenda will head up a new
Negotiations in the WTO’, Third World Economics,
division.16 No. 191, 16-31 August.
14 Rege, V 2000 ‘WTO Procedures for Decision
Making: Experience of Their Operation and
Suggestions for Improvement, Background Paper,
• ------------------------------- Commonwealth Secretariat, 21 January.
1 ‘Circles of consensus’ is explained by Drahos, P, 15 Narlikar, A. 2001 ‘WTO Decision-making and
drawing on the example of the negotiations of the Developing Countries’, South Centre TRADE
TRIPS Agreement, in ‘Developing Countries and Working Papers 11, November.
International Intellectual Property Standard- 16 Inside US Trade 2001 ‘Moore Reorganises WTO in
setting’, Paper presented at the Commission on Division Overseeing New Talks’, December 21.
Intellectual Property Rights, 2002.
2 WTO, TN/C/M/1, 14 February, 2002, Trade
Negotiating Committee, Minutes of Meeting 28
January and 1 February, 2002.
3 Narlikar A. 2001 ‘WTO Decision-making and
Developing Countries’, South Centre TRADE
Working Papers 11, November.
4 Minutes of Meeting, Trade Negotiations Committee
28 Jan and 1 February, 2002, TN/C/M/1, 14
February, 2002.
5 Ramadan A, Presentation at a Germanwatch
Conference, Bonn, October 2000.
6 N.Ndirangu 2000 ‘Participation in the WTO
Decision-making Process for Developing
Countries’, Paper presented at a Germanwatch
Conference, October, Bonn.
7 Narlikar, A. 2001 ‘WTO Decision-making and
Developing Countries’, South Centre TRADE
Working Papers 11, November.
8 This idea has been borrowed from Yash Tandon,
9 Narlikar, A. 2001 ‘WTO Decision-making and
Developing Countries’, South Centre TRADE
Working Papers 11, November.
10 The General system of Preferences (GSP) allows
developing countries easier access to rich country
markets. However, this access by developed
countries is non-binding and subject to change. It

Power Politics in the WTO
Power Politics in the WTO

Post-Doha antics:
Laying the
foundations for

Power Politics in the WTO
Upon their return to Geneva after Doha, As for the DG serving as chair, the developing
delegates discovered the same charade of countries position was clear. Amabssador
democratic process that they had seen in Doha Chidyausiku of Zimbabwe:
and in the run-up to Doha.
It is wrong to have the DG as TNC head.
The Secretariat should not take part in
The trade negotiations committee the politics of negotiations. It should be
(whether you want it or not)1 neutral, and should service all members
equally. It should not promote certain
The first issue was the proposal to establish a views or positions held by some in the
Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) to membership.3
oversee negotiations of the Doha round, and
then to have then DG Mike Moore as its chair. The LDCs also opposed this idea. They
believed that it caused a conflict of interest
The position of many countries was that the and would force them to negotiate with the
TNC was unnecessary. Although the GATT Secretariat. Tanzania spoke on behalf of LDCs:
had a TNC, the Marrakesh Agreement gives
to the WTO General Council (which the GATT Chairs and Vice-Chairs should be
never had) the authority to make decisions on Geneva-based representatives in order
negotiations in between ministerials. Having to exercise Membership control and to
a TNC while the General Council exists uphold the Member-driven principle.
therefore seems redundant, and a waste of The Secretariat should provide support
precious meeting and staff time. services and should not be involved in
the negotiations.4
Ambassador Akram of Pakistan explains:
While these countries, the Like Minded Group
After the WTO was established, we (LMG), the LDCs and the majority of the
created the WTO General Council, African Group supported the approach of
which is basically entrusted with all the having a Geneva-based Ambassador fill the
tasks that are supposed to be conducted TNC post, it was clear from public statements
by a TNC. A number of us had felt there by EU Commissioner Lamy and others that
was in fact no need for a TNC and that the Quad (US, EU, Japan and Canada)
negotiations should be conducted within supported the current DG to Chair the TNC.
the existing structure. But, once again, Harbinson was asked to consult with the
developed countries felt that the TNC Membership for a decision by the first TNC
should be created and they were able to meeting scheduled for 28 January.
carry the day.2

Power Politics in the WTO
The result was predictable: process, such as having these mini-
ministerials, they are trying to
It is not good to hear that: Africa institutionalize. Mike Moore has openly
supports a certain position on the issue said that it worked (for Doha) - mini-
of the TNC Chair (opposing the DG as ministerials and facilitators. One
TNC Chair), and this is also the same problem is that they bypass the Geneva
position taken by the ACP countries and process. Another is that, increasingly,
the LDCs, some Asians say yes and this group is identified as a de facto
some no, and then it is concluded that executive committee of the WTO, a
the majority of opinion supports the DG. management committee.
That doesn’t build confidence.
(Caribbean delegate) The ranks of the LMG were also being
broken. The ASEAN and Asian countries
were particularly vulnerable, given that Dr.
The same strategies that were employed to pull Supachai Panitchpakdi (from Thailand) was
through the Doha outcome came into use to be the next Director General. ASEAN was
again. Many developing country negotiators therefore in support of the DG as TNC Chair
received calls from their Capitals, instructing ex-officio. Ambassador Chidyausiku:
them not to stand in the way.
We came up with a compromise: TNC
One African delegate related that he had been Chair would be DG ex-officio, with
contacted by his Capital, saying the Mike rules that would bind the Chair of the
Moore was soon visiting them. They should TNC and how he could conduct himself.
therefore not be obstructionists and join in We also said that it would be a one-time
‘the consensus’. arrangement that would end with
Supachai’s tenure. It is not a precedent.
The ambassador of Zimbabwe, Chidyausiku: It helped us that China was with us.
When China and developing countries
The DG was able to get in touch with have a point to put across, they cannot
their Ministers, and colleagues got ignore it. We welcome China’s entry into
instructions not to stand in the way. If it the WTO.
(Chairing the TNC) is a ceremonial
position and there is nothing of Even as the fight over TNC Chair was taking
substance in somebody being Chair of place, many developing countries were
TNC, why would someone go to extent concerned about the ‘flexibility’ in procedural
of lobbying in capitals?5 matters that had characterised Doha. An
informal paper, floated by India in January,
Amongst others, the Capitals of Egypt, noted that ‘Ambiguity works to the
Honduras and Sri Lanka were influenced disadvantage of developing countries’.
heavily during this process.
Jamaica remained convinced that clear
The green room made a re-appearance. Three rules and transparent guidelines would
days before the decision had to be taken, contribute to efficiency through clarity
Canada and Brazil pulled together a and predictability. Too much flexibility
‘green room’ meeting at the Canadian mission. and too much vagueness would be
About 25 countries were present.6 Strangely counterproductive.
enough, the Director General, too, showed up. (Ambassador Ransford Smith,
One delegate who was not invited to this
meeting commented later: In order to address these serious institutional
deficiencies, a group of nine LMG countries8
The Canadians were having here a in a communication to the General Council,
Mini-Ministerial. There is concern that addressed the systemic problems of non-
what they started in the pre-Doha transparency and non-inclusiveness.9

Power Politics in the WTO
• The TNC should be subordinate and practices had never been established
accountable to the General Council. and this delegation could not agree to
• Selection of Chairs must be done an institutionalisation of something,
formally with ‘explicit consensus’. which had never been agreed upon,
• There should be general procedures for through the back door...The problem of
a balanced makeup of TNC Chairs. transparency in the negotiations needed
• Chairs should be filled from Geneva- to be dealt with in a much more specific
based ambassadors (i.e. not the DG/ way through the adoption of clear and
Secretariat). explicit rules.10
• Neutrality should be the central feature
of the Chair. China threatened to stall negotiations if the
• Accurate minutes should be released issue of accurate negotiating texts was not
within 10 days of a TNC meeting. addressed appropriately. Developing countries
• All drafting should be done in open wanted explicit language to forbid Chairs
meetings, and negotiating texts be from submitting texts in their ‘personal
available at least two weeks in advance capacity’ and to require that differences be
of a decision, to enable delegations to reflected in the actual negotiating texts. In
receive feedback from their Capitals. the end, developing countries got the
• All disagreements must be reflected in following language, ‘In their regular reporting
bracketed text. to overseeing bodies, Chairpersons should
reflect consensus, or where this is not possible,
Although these are fundamental requirements different positions on issues.’
for the proper functioning of an international
organisation, there was intense resistance by The DG was appointed, ex-officio, as TNC
some developed countries. The US, for Chair, but as ‘an exceptional arrangement’.
example, felt that this would ‘bog down’ the Appointments to WTO bodies should normally
negotiations and put the negotiating process be made from among representatives of WTO
in a ‘straight jacket’. Australia said, members’.

The necessary progress (on the Doha Within two and half weeks of being elected
Mandate) would be impossible if, for as the new TNC Chair, under principles and
example, there were procedural practices that ‘Chairpersons should be
requirements that minutes had to be impartial and objective’, Mike Moore was
prepared before another meeting could breaking the rules.
be held, or that no groups could meet
simultaneously. The Financial Times reported ‘Mike Moore,
Director-General of the World Trade
What was the outcome of this battle? Organization, has urged developing countries
to support proposals for WTO rules on
The results of the process were not binding competition and investment, telling them it is
guidelines for negotiations, but rather a set of in their own economic interest.’ Even the
‘Principles and Practices’ delivered as a Financial Times reporter wrote that ‘It is
‘Chairman’s Statement’ ‘that should be (kept) unusual for a WTO Director-General to take a
in mind’. One of these principles was that public position on such politically contentious
Members should ‘build on the best practices questions.’11
established over the past two years’ in the
WTO with regards to internal transparency.
The agriculture chair
This reference to non-existent ‘best practices’
was quickly challenged by Bulgaria: And then seasoned observers of the WTO were
treated to a reprise of this rule-breaking. In
In the section on transparency and the TNC, the Secretariat had bulldozed its way
process, the second bullet referred to into Members’ territory. Again, this is now
established best practices. Such being repeated in the agriculture negotiations.

Power Politics in the WTO
Stuart Harbinson, WTO Ambassador of Hong Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post
Kong, and Chair of the General Council in carried an article with Harbinson describing
2001, whose ‘magical’ clean text for Doha had his own style of ‘compromise’ as follows:
omitted the objections of many developing
countries, found himself appointed chair of the The whole thing is to construct a
agriculture negotiations, the most politically balance of interests in which everybody
sensitive issue at the WTO in February 2002. gives something and everybody gets
(It was not too difficult for the big powers to something....12
pull through this appointment, since Stuart
Harbinson himself, in the last days of his Many developing country officials in Geneva
General Council chairmanship, was the one are uneasy with this situation. They have
holding the consultations appointing the given a lot and got very little. They also do
chairpersons of various committees, including not want to see a repetition of Doha where their
agriculture.) position on ‘no new issues’ were ignored in
the Harbinson negotiating text. For them,
In June 2002, it was announced that Dr this is also setting a dangerous precedent
Supachai, incoming Director General of the of involving Secretariat staff directly in
WTO from 1 September, had appointed negotiations.
Harbinson as chef de cabinet in the Director
General’s office. From 10 September, Several delegations have raised their
Harbinson took leave from his government concerns privately with Dr Supachai. At least
position and assumed his new post in the one other country has also formally written a
Secretariat, yet he has not relinquished his letter to the Chair of the General Council,
position as Chair of Agriculture. stating its displeasure at such an arrangement.
It was also the understanding of various
In national terms, this is the equivalent of the members within the African Group that the
MP chairing an important parliamentary group had taken a decision to write a formal
committee joining the civil service. Which in letter to the General Council, but unfortunately
most countries you are perfectly free to do, as no follow-up materialized, as key members of
long as you give up your parliamentary seat. the Group were approached by the powerful
Recall that the appointment of DG Mike
Moore as Chair of the TNC was ‘an As one African diplomat privately explained:
exceptional arrangement’. An exceptional
arrangement that was repeated within months. Some countries whom we thought were
our friends are no longer with us on this.
Those who want to see agriculture talks moved They have come under bilateral pressure.
along and concluded (in their favour), are
all for Harbinson staying on as Chair of Another developing country delegate,
Agriculture. Some of the reasons cited have explaining why the issue is under wraps
been that he is after all ‘neutral’, and therefore, said:
even if he is a Secretariat staff, it can be
excused since his ‘neutrality’ would not create I get the impression that no one is
a conflict of interest. willing to be the spoiler. The major
powers see such a high stake in this.
The big powers - US and EU - and the Cairns Many developing countries are still
Group of agricultural exporting countries did feeling the post-September 11 threat,
not want a change of Chair in agriculture since that ‘you are with us, or you are against
intensive talks in the Agriculture Committee us.
were planned for the ensuing six months.
Changing the chair would set back the
timetable significantly.

Power Politics in the WTO
Supachai appears to have done nothing on this Already countries are wondering if their
critical process issue. His stand, when he positions in agriculture (predicted to be the
stepped into his position as DG, was that he sticking point in the coming Fifth Ministerial)
would remove Harbinson as agriculture chair will be reflected in the agriculture modalities
if the membership so indicated. Many paper that Supachai’s Chef de Cabinet
developing country delegations have no desire Harbinson, will be releasing and revising
to embarrass the newly appointed Director between December 2002 and March 2003. In
General, well aware of the hard battle they had anticipation of his pre-Doha antics, some
to fight three years ago to get him into the DG countries like India have already warned DG
position. They are instead eager to maintain a Supachai that they will not accept a repeat of
good working relationship with him. This has the Doha text. However, politically weaker
been one reason (of several reasons outlined countries are not so confident that they will
earlier) why they have preferred to keep things be able to stand up against the tide.
at the informal level, speaking to him about it
on the quiet. One African ambassador, when asked why
countries have not been more proactive in
Unfortunately, Supachai is either deaf to these speaking out against the breach of rules (of
concerns, or, is himself walking a political Harbinson as Secretariat chairing a negotiating
tightrope in his current position. Already body), said that many countries do indeed see
before the assumption of his position, the this issue as being highly problematic.
majors had declared their displeasure at some However, no one seems to want to be the
of the comments he had made about the WTO ‘spoiler’. Countries are remaining quiet out of
while he was DG in waiting. fear that they could be punished by the
influential countries if they stepped ‘out of
Laying the foundations for
Cancun: manufacturing another Mini-ministerials come in useful in terms of
Doha ‘success’? getting ministers of a core group of countries
in line, by making bilateral deals on the side.
Despite the fact that Cancun is a whole year This has the effect of marginalizing those that
ahead, the influential members of the WTO are excluded. The package is then presented
have already started their work in ensuring a to the majority marginalized countries on a
repeat of their success. The same raft of anti- take-it-or-leave it basis, with the underlying
democratic practices are being put in place: threat that any country opposing such a
consensus package will pay heavily (in terms
i) Harbinson in the lead, ready to of termination of preferential trading
produce unbracketed texts indicating arrangements etc). De facto, these mini-
that a consensus exists when there ministerials mean that a small group of
may be none, and texts which are Members, without authorisation, takes
released ‘on his own responsibility’; leadership of the institution (similar to an
ii) Mini-ministerials and Green Room executive council). In this light, such meetings
meetings of about 23 countries which are illegitimate.
exclude the majority;
iii) ‘flexibility’ in process, i.e. breaking A mini-ministerial has already been planned
of procedural rules in order to on November 14-15 in Sydney. Only 24
manufacture a consensus; countries have been invited. The line-up of
iv) accurately timed and well-planned countries is rather significant. The ‘strident’
doses of bilateral pressures. This voices of any weight are of course included,
includes the post September 11 ‘with such as India. Also included are representatives
us or against us’ threats; of African countries that for some years now
v) breaking down the coalition of have been under the influence of the majors,
developing countries and isolating and have been groomed to break the African
‘hard liners’ such as India. Group coalition at strategic points. It is very
significant that Pakistan has not been invited,

Power Politics in the WTO
an illustration of their weakened role since Bilateral pressures are being applied. US
September 11 and the removal of their well- missions based in the developing countries
known, out-spoken Geneva ambassador, have been selling its agriculture position to
Munir Akram earlier this year. officials of these countries. For example, El
Salvador, who was part of the ‘Development
Of the African countries on the Sydney Box’ coalition of countries (asking for
invitation list, it is common knowldege that protection of their agricultural sector),
South Africa and also Egypt (to a large extent) announced in the market access agriculture
sings the tune of the US and EU. Kenya and session in early September that they supported
Nigeria have also been frequently accosted by the position of the United States advocating
the US. In Doha, Kenya was leading the ACP drastic tariff reductions.
countries and its Minister Biwott was the one
responsible for putting the ACP waiver on the Pressures on delegates have continued. The
table, clearly after having been manipulated determined Ambassador of the Dominican
by bilateral deals with the influential members. Republic Federico Cuello was removed at
the end of August 2002 because of his active
Breaking the procedural rules was a major role in the Like Minded Group Coalition.
factor leading to Doha’s outcome. Vagueness Likewise, the outspoken Ambassador of
of procedures provided developed countries Pakistan was also given a promotion and sent
the space to manipulate the negotiating process to New York in the middle of 2002.
in order to suit their interests.
The divide and rule strategy, breaking the
The proposals for greater transparency from coalition of developing countries, is being used
the Like Minded Group (LMG) in May have to make such coalitions impotent, in particular,
met with a riposte from a grouping of 8 the Like Minded Group14 and the African
countries - Australia, Canada, Hong Kong Group. A Ministerial meeting of the Like
China, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Minded Group planned for mid-September did
Singapore and Switzerland. Their view is: not materialise as some Ministers were
approached and persuaded not to attend. One
In a member-driven organization critical issue on that agenda was the topic of
processes need to be kept flexible. We Harbinson and the breach of rules.
need to avoid rigidities.

Prescriptive and detailed approaches to

the preparatory processes are
inappropriate and will not create the
best circumstances for consensus to
emerge in the Cancun meeting.
• -----------------------------
In processes of this sort much depends 1 Many thanks to Shefali Sharma of the Institute for
on members’ level of ambition and the Agriculture and Trade Policy, for her contributions
force with which they pursue individual to this section.
2 South Bulletin 29, 15 February, 2002, South
objectives. Ultimately consensus will
be achievable only if members are
3 Interview with Ambassador Boniface Chidyausiku,
prepared to moderate these objectives 22 February 2002, Geneva.
and take a wider view of what their 4 WTO 2001 WT/GC/M/72 ‘Minutes of General
interests require. Restraint and Council Meeting, 19-20 December.
flexibility will be essential.13 5 Interview with Ambassador Boniface Chidyausiku,
22 February 2002, Geneva.
According to this view the ‘rules-based’ 6 Those present included EC, US, Japan,
organization operates best with no rules. Switzerland, Australia, Hungary, Uruguay, Costa
Rica, Chile, Argentina, Egypt, South Africa,
Uganda, Kenya, Jamaica, Korea, Singapore, India
and Pakistan.

Power Politics in the WTO
7 WTO 2002 TN/C/M/1, ‘Minutes of TNC Meetings,
28 January and 1 February, 2002’.
8 These were Cuba, Dominican Republic, Egypt,
Honduras, Kenya, Pakistan, Tanzania, Uganda and
9 The paper was entitled: ‘Establishment of the
Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) and Related
Issues’, December 21, 2001.
10 WTO TN/C/M/1, Minutes of TNC Meetings 28
January and February 1, 2002.
11 Financial Times February 18, 2002, ‘Moore Speaks
Out on WTO Rules’, by Guy de Jonquieres. See
also Mike Moore’s Personal View, ‘Development
Needs More than Trade’, Financial Times,
February 18, 2002.
12 South China Morning Post 29 April 2002
‘Freedom’s Quiet Advocate: entrepot role gives
Hong Kong’s man in Geneva pivotal position in
global trade body’.
13 WT/GC/W/477, 28 June 2002 ‘Preparatory Process
in Geneva and Negotiating Process at Ministerial
14 The Like Minded Group includes India, Pakistan,
Sri Lanka, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Honduras,
Egypt, Malaysia, Indonesia, Jamaica, Mauritius,
Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe.

Power Politics in the WTO


Power Politics in the WTO
T he anti-democratic decision-making for developing countries without manufacturing
processes of the WTO result in highly capacity to be able to access affordable drugs
imbalanced trade rules which are damaging has also been missed.
the economies of the developing world.
Beneath all the gestures to bring in developing In summing up the results of a year of intense
countries from the cold, the real agenda is at negotiations, the Indian Ambassador
the fore - to provide corporations of the K.M.Chandrasekhar said,
developed countries access to markets of the
developing world by dismantling not only We sometimes wondered whether the
tariff structures but also domestic regulations Council was discussing how to facilitate
that impede foreign corporations. access to drugs at affordable prices to
poor people or how to restrict the scope
In terms of the substantive issues, the Doha and ambit of the intended solution.
Development Agenda emerging out of the Commercial interests appeared to have
Fourth Ministerial Conference was a skillful become predominant
public relations exercise, which unfortunately
is a major step in the wrong direction for The whole world is waiting expectantly
developing countries. for the outcome of the exercise in which
we are presently engaged. It will be
This failure to address the needs and interests difficult to justify why this organization
of the developing world is clear a year after could not rise to the occasion and
Doha. The promises made to the South have satisfactorily respond to the crises being
remained undelivered as deadlines on issues faced in several parts of the world on
of importance to the South have all passed. account of public health problems of the
kind described in the Doha Declaration.
The TRIPS and Public Health Declaration was At stake are the hopes of millions of
the ‘trophy’ developing countries brought people to get access to medicines at
back from Doha. It is a political declaration affordable prices.2
stating that ‘The TRIPS Agreement does not
and should not prevent members from taking The promise in Doha that developing
measures to protect public health’, hence countries’ priority issues - implementation and
allowing countries to take action to provide Special and Differential Treatment - would be
affordable generic drugs. dealt with on a fast track with decisions
taken by July and December 2002 have also
Unfortunately in the year since Doha, the not materialized. Developed countries have
Declaration has been severely watered down remained completely intransigent in the
by the US, EU and Japan1. These countries, negotiations. It is clear that there is no political
led by the US, are adamant about limiting the will to right the imbalances of the Uruguay
scope of diseases covered by the Declaration. Round, or to address the development needs
The deadline of end 2002 to find a solution of the majority.

Power Politics in the WTO
Two working groups mooted by developing a decision based on explicit consensus at the
countries were also formed in Doha: one on 5th Ministerial.3 In discussions in Geneva, the
Trade, Debt and Finance and the other on EU has called for a broad definition of foreign
Transfer of Technology. The suggestions by direct investment, and the US is insisting on
developed countries as well as the WTO the inclusion of portfolio investment. The
Secretariat during the year are tantamount to launch of the new issues will essentially be
a tasteless joke pulled on developing countries. about removing domestic regulations that
The EU, keenly supported by the Secretariat, protect domestic enterprises, hence eliminating
has suggested that the Trade, Debt and Finance the last bastion of policy space developing
working group should explore issues around country governments have at their disposal to
the establishment of a multilateral framework support their local industries and enterprises.
agreement on investment and competition.
Cancun will be a critical decisive moment in
Even as the promises made to developing history. If the round — with all the new issues
countries remain unfulfilled, developed - is launched, it will have devastating impact
countries are aggressively pursuing their own on ordinary people all over the world. Refusal
interests. by developing countries to launch the new
issues, on the other hand, will bring the WTO
In agriculture, intensive talks are underway to to a standstill and hopefully the beginning of
knock together a new agreement. Developing a significant roll-back. The outcome rests on
countries are called to undertake yet another whether developing countries will be able to
round of aggressive tariff reduction, yet the resist the political and economic pressures of
US adopted their Farm Bill in May 2002, the rich countries. Developing country
increasing subsidies by 63 per cent As a result governments so far have failed their people
of enlargement, EU subsidies will increase up by agreeing to be swindled time and time
to 2006 and subsidy levels will be maintained again. It should be clear to all that attempts to
at the 2006 level until 2013. It is inevitable ‘developmentalise’ the WTO, as with attempts
that dumping in developing countries will to ‘democratise’ it, are nothing more than a
escalate yet, in spite of this, the South is being public relations exercise carried out by the
told it must continue to liberalise . powerful to couch their corporate interests.

Doha also fast-tracked the negotiations in Even the more enlightened Southern
services. The request phase started in June governments in trade negotiations tend to
2002 despite the fact that the mandated sacrifice long-term interests in order to avoid
assessment (Article XIX.3 of the GATS) of short-term pain (aid or market access being
the Uruguay Round services liberalisation has put at risk). While the choices before them are
not been carried out. The offer phase takes not always easy to navigate, they would do
place from March 2003. Many developing their people a major service by taking a longer-
countries are at a loss at dealing with the term view and finally taking a strong stand
current GATS negotiations. The liberalisation against the bullying strategies of the rich
requests they have received from the countries . They have the lives of their people
developed countries have covered all sectors at stake.
imaginable, yet their small service suppliers
are in no position to compete with the
Northern corporations. They are extremely • -----------------------------
nervous that they will be pressured into 1 Japan tried to exclude vaccines from the coverage
opening up their domestic service markets in of the Declaration. In future, vaccines will be will
the current GATS round. used to combat HIV.
2 K.M.Chandrasekhar, Statement in the General
Council meeting of 20 December 2002, cited in
On the question of the new issues - investment,
Raghavan, Chakravarthi, ‘Trade: Scrooge’s gift for
competition, transparency in government the Third World at WTO’, #SUNS 5260, 23
procurement and trade facilitation - the EU December 2002.
has chosen to ignore the Chairman’s statement 3 This is elaborated in Chapter 3, footnote 5.
that the launch of these issues depends upon

Power Politics in the WTO
Power Politics in the WTO