The Doha Development Round

A glimpse at the setting, major challenges, and major players in reaching consensus on new trade regulation in 2011

Abigail Hunter
January 2011 ~ International Commercial Law ~ IUG

  INTRODUCTION In 2001 the World Trade Organization (WTO) launched the Fourth Ministerial Conference for the negotiation of new international trade regulations in Doha, Qatar. The


Conference has convened in parts and as a whole various times in the past nine years but has yet to adopt and implement a formal decision on modalities for agricultural trade regulation. In January 2011, negotiators will meet once again in an attempt to reach consensus. By investigating and analyzing the historical failures and achievements of the round, the challenging issues of agriculture and cotton it takes on, and the current diplomatic, economic, and political situation in the world, a better understanding of the difficulties faced in negotiations of 2011 can be reached. However, even with close examination of those three aspects of the Doha Round, along with a glimpse at the positions and intensions of major actors, no definitive conclusion can be reached regarding what the outcome of the 2011 talks will be. INITIAL SETTING The Doha Round was approached much differently in November 2001 than the Uruguay Round that preceded it. The Uruguay Round had left developing nations disgruntled from the large amount of concessions they had made in order to fulfill the requirements for debt relief and repayment (Panagariya, p. 5). This dissatisfaction of developing nations, the economic and political setting in developed nations, along with the accession of China to the WTO, are all important factors that lead to the opening of the Doha Round of negotiations. Developing nations, known as the South in international theory, received less than desired from the Uruguay Round and was hesitant to enter into new multilateral negotiations with the developed countries of the North. Therefore, before agreeing to begin the round, the South demanded that the North fulfill their promises from Uruguay. They also required that the new round of negotiations address the South’s development needs such as “technical assistance and capacity building” and “more flexibility in fulfilling its WTO commitments” (Cohn, p. 3). The North agreed to add development to the Work Program of the Doha Round and renamed the round the Doha Development Round (DDR) upon the commencement of negotiations. For developed nations of the North, the economic and political setting of 2001 was extremely influential to opening the DDR talks. Economically, the steadily growing foreign trade deficits in the US and the emergence of the EU as a highly powerful trade conglomerate motivated the North to engage in a new round (Cohn, p. 7). The political situation of the US

  drove the country to initiate the DDR negotiations because of the desire to show unyielding commitment to liberalism after 9/11 and the switch from Democratic to Republican leadership, removing labor issues off the negotiating table (Panagariya, p. 4). Meanwhile, the signing of agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement in the US and creation of the European Union in Europe had brought about a recent “domestication” of trade issues within each of the main Northern powers, engaging their respective constituencies in trade related matters (Cohn, p. 7).


The addition of China to the WTO within the first days of the Ministerial meeting, added another important dimension to the opening setting of the DDR. China’s accession was quite controversial because many members of the WTO were uncomfortable giving China developing country status, as is usually provided to all Recently-Acceded Members (RAMs). While China was lagging in some sectors, it was highly advanced in others, and this created concern within WTO members about providing special and differential treatment to China as a RAM (Prime, p.2). The initial work program, released in 2004, has a two-track approach to address trade and development (WT/MIN(01)/DEC/1, p. 1). It covers the areas of agriculture, cotton, nonagricultural market access, services, negotiating bodies, trade facilitation, and development issues including special and differential treatment, technical assistance, implementation, least developed countries (LDCs) and other development issues. The addition of the second track to the agenda was due to the “particular concerns of developing countries, including relating to food security, rural development, livelihood, preferences, commodities and net food imports, as well as prior unilateral liberalization, that should be taken into consideration, as appropriate, in the course of…negotiations” (WT/L/579, p. 4). The dissatisfaction of the developing nations of the South, the economic and political situations in the developed North, and the accession of China to the WTO all played strong roles in inspiring the beginning of the Doha Development Round and it’s work program. All three aspects have impacted negotiations throughout the previous decade and have been aspects of some of the greatest challenges to the Round. NEGOTIATIONS Including November 2001, there have been three ministerial meetings, six major negotiations, and various small meetings between members thus far related to the Doha Development Round. Each meeting has made certain advances but due to some highly

  controversial issues within agriculture, a conclusion to the DDR has yet to be reached. Initially in 2001, the General Council set a timeline giving negotiations until 2005 to be completed, however, because of the sensitivity of the issues, negotiations still continue. After the 2001 meeting in Doha, Qatar, the General Council met again in 2004 in Cancun, Mexico. There, the members released the Doha Ministerial Declaration and made several important advancements. The first was the agreement on TRIPS and Public Health where members agreed to provide the LDCs with an extension of TRIPS for pharmaceutical products until 2016 and recognized the right of a country to decide for itself cases of national emergency or extreme urgency (Panagariya, p. 7). The members also reached a decision on Implementation-Related Issues and Concerns that “urges” countries to “exercise restraint in challenging measures… [of agricultural protection]… in developing countries in order to allow


them to promote rural development and adequately address food security concerns” (Panagariya, p. 9). Within agricultural negotiations in Cancun, contradictory positions began to staunchly present themselves. The US and EU issued a paper to call for the partial elimination of export subsidies in agriculture and a market access formula that would blend the US and EU approaches (Cohen, p. 4). This proposal faced opposition by the G10 net food importers made up of Bulgaria, Israel, Japan, Republic of Korea, Liechtenstein, Mauritius, Norway, Switzerland, and Taiwan because the legislation was not flexible enough in it’s ability to maintain protective tariffs. While the newly formed G20 developing nations led by Brazil, China, and India considered the legislation not a strong enough tool for subsidy removal. The Cancun meeting is important in the DDR because it marked the first accomplishments with TRIPS and because it created two pronounced groups of actors within agricultural negotiations that continue to play significant roles throughout the DDR. Also in 2004, the July Package was signed in Geneva and set a new negotiation strategy for the DDR in agriculture. The most profound aspect of the Package was that it divided cotton negotiations apart from agriculture. Pressure from the Cotton-4 was instrumental in dividing

cotton from the agricultural negotiations so as to take it on from both a trade and development aspects. “Never previously in the multilateral trading system had WTO members decided to distinguish between the trade and the development policy aspects of a commodity, and then link them both to a specific coherence mandate with the framework of negotiations” (ITC, p. 2). The US, EU, India, and Australia all agreed upon the division as well and came to an accord on                                                                                                                  Benin,  Burkina  Faso,  Chad,  and  Mali  

  elements of the agriculture framework. The members generally agreed that in order to move forward in the Round, agricultural export subsidies and export credits along with domestic subsidies would all have to be reduced in developed nations in order for developing nations to lower tariffs on manufactured goods. At the third ministerial meeting in Hong Kong in 2005, a consensus was reached on cotton. Resting on the conditional conclusion of the DDR, member states agreed to: 1) The elimination of all forms of export subsidies for cotton in developed countries by 2006.


2) The duty-free and quota-free access for cotton exports from LDCs entering developed countries. 3) Reduce trade-distorting domestic support for cotton “more ambitiously than for whatever agree general formula to be implemented” over a shorter period of time (ITC, p. 3). The General Council was also able to agree to eliminate all agriculture export subsidies by 2013 and set a new deadline of 2006 for the completion of the DDR. However, by July 2006 WTO Director General Pascal Lamy had to completely suspend DDR talks because the unwillingness of the US and EU to further cede anymore of their agricultural subsidies. (Reuters) Both the US and EU were facing strong domestic pressure at the time to not further reduce any farm subsidies. Another domestic issue that added to the US’ position at the time was the expiration of “Fast Track” legislation.✧ The halting of negotiations in 2006 was primarily due to domestic political responses to the decisions of Hong Kong and the unwillingness of countries to cede any concessions in agriculture. Negotiators from the US, EU, Brazil, and India attempted again in 2007 in Potsdam, Germany to approach agricultural legislation in the DDR and failed. “The developed countries accused the developing countries of bringing nothing new to the table. The developing countries countered that the US and EU’s farm subsidy cuts are too minimal to make any difference” (Mayes, p. 13). Also, cotton arose on the agenda once again because timeline of the agreement had already been missed and negotiators failed to rehash the consensus. The tension filled meeting raised the level of animosity between the two sides and only entrenched the opponents in their positions.                                                                                                                 ✧  “Fast  Track”  legislation  allowed  the  President  of  the  US  to  send  trade  legislation  through  Congress  as  an   entire  package  that  could  not  be  altered  just  voted  for  or  against.  

  In July 2008, negotiators met again in Geneva, directly proceeding an APEC and G20


Economic group summit. Together the groups called for an end to the DDR by 2008 because of the looming issues in the global economy (Reuters). The members came together in Geneva to specifically discuss agricultural modalities but talks collapsed over the issue of Special Safeguard Mechanisms (SSM), specifically whether “tariffs could be permitted to exceed the limits set by the pre-Doha meetings” if the prices of commodities were to plummet (Mayes, p. 11). China, who had previously been taking a supporting role to Brazil and India, finally came to the front within the negotiations and “accused the US of hypocrisy for heavily subsidizing its own cotton farmers…while asking other countries to expose theirs to harsh competition” (Lim & Wang, p. 3). While there had been high hopes, DG Lamy did not call a ministerial meeting in the wake of the negotiations because of “lack of political will among major powers to bridge gaps on key issues (Reuters). The variety of ministerial meetings, negotiations, and talks between member states since 2001 have led to agreements on TRIPS, aspects of cotton and agriculture, along with elements of development. Agriculture modalities and SSMs have emerged as particularly sensitive issues within the negotiations and have led to the collapse of talks on several occasions. While all members have repeatedly pledged their commitment to arriving at consensus on new trade legislation, “they have yet to move or note any movement towards real convergence” (TN/AG/W/4/Rev.4, p. 2). CHALLENGES The two greatest challenges of the Doha Development Round revolve around the issues of agriculture and cotton. Agriculture has been and will continue to be majorly controversial negotiating point due to amount of invested actors within agriculture across the world. Meanwhile cotton is a challenge because of the development aspect of it’s production and the nature of the DDR as a “development round”; it is almost serving as a litmus test from the view of the South, as to whether the DDR is truly representing the interests of the developing world. Agriculture modalities negotiations revolve around working to define green box, blue box, and amber box spending and creating solutions for eliminating amber box spending and reducing blue box spending. ✼ Redefining and reducing agriculture subsidies has mobilized a                                                                                                                

 Amber  box  spending  refers  to  the  most  trade-­‐distorting  payments  and  subsidies  like  price  supports  or   production  payments  while  the  blue  box  spending  is  less  trade-­‐distorting  because  it  limits  production  of  the  

  variety of actors on both international and domestic levels. Within the DDR, there have three main relationships that have come into focus within negotiations: North/North Relations,


North/South Relations, and Ambassador/Constituency Relations. These three relationships play an intrinsic role in the agricultural modalities talks of the DDR. The Northern, developed economies, do not stand entirely united on the agriculture issues at hand. On one side, the US and the Cairns group✢ , are willing to abolish the majority of their agricultural export subsidies, decrease their domestic subsidies and allow greater market access to foreign commodities. However, the EU, Japan, Norway, Republic of Korea, and Switzerland, still heavily favor supporting their rural communities with payments, promoting sustainable agriculture, and not drastically liberalizing their agricultural trade. (Cohn, p. 10-11) The greatest area of division between the two is undoubtedly I regards to the US’ “zeroing” of dumping margins.❃ Even though the WTO has ruled it in violation of numerous trade regulations and the EU is vehemently opposed to it’s use, the US continues to practice “zeroing” and is attempting to add it to the DDR agriculture agreement. While they have aligned because their interests are most closely related, there are still great differences in the positions held by the US-led North and the EU-led North. The distinctions between the two have not yet played a drastic role, but the closer the DDR comes to completion, the more the details of the North versus North positions will come into play. North versus South relations began to surface from the very beginning of DDR negotiations and remain the greatest hurtle to completion of the Round. Essentially, the North is bargaining for more market access in the South in exchange for a reduction of their own domestic subsidization of agriculture (Mayes, p. 1). In this bargaining process, the new G20 developing economies alliance grew, led by the growing powers of Brazil, India, and China in harsh opposition to the powers of the US and EU. Because of the countries of the South felt cheated by a variety of provisions of the Uruguay Round, they mobilized strongly behind the G20 leaders and are pushing for real tangible changes in market access, domestic support, and export subsidies in developed nations. The issue of particular controversy is the Special Safeguard Mechanisms (SSM) that the South advocates for addition to the DDR work program.                                                                                                                
commodity.    For  spending  to  be  in  the  green  box,  it  must  minimally  affect  trade  because  it  goes  towards   general  support  elements  such  as  research  and  development  (Elliott,  p.  2).   ✢  Australia,  Canada,  Colombia,  Costa  Rica,  Malaysia,  New  Zealand,  Peru,  and  South  Africa   ❃  “Zeroing”  refers  to  the  act  of  normalizing  all  negative  computed  dumping  margins  and  making  them  zero   thus  inflating  the  dumping  margin  and  dumping  margin  duty.    It  is  used  by  the  US  Department  of  Commerce   to  commute  dumping  margin  duties.  (Lincicome)  



The SSM would be a safeguard for developing nations against quickly depressed import prices of steep increase in the volume of imports so as to protect domestic industries. The Uruguay Round provided a Special Safeguard for developed nations, so the South is essentially demanding reciprocity (Khor). The leaders of the South, Brazil, India, and China, all have integrated interests within the G20 platform of lowering developed nations trade-distorting practices. Brazil has been taking strong stances on all three areas of change because it is looking to use its comparative advantage to export to huge new markets in the North (Nogueira, p. 2). India is focused on making certain that SSM trigger levels are low enough to ensure sufficient protection from import flooding and dramatic price falls (Kumar & Nair, p. 4). Meanwhile, China stepped up into a leadership role in 2008 because it is especially concerned with RAM status and ensuring that differentiated treatment for RAMs is maintained in the DDR (Lim & Wang, p. 4). The G20, led by Brazil, India, and China has become formidable challenger to the US, EU, and Cairns group. Each side is deeply entrenched on opposing sides of the issues relating to the developed world’s subsidization of agriculture because of the immense trade inequalities that the payments create. This North versus South conflict over modalities within agriculture stands as the greatest conflict in the DDR. Both the North and South are stuck on their sides in part because of the relationship between Ambassadors and Constituency. The domestic situation in several countries has already come into play in negotiations regarding agriculture, especially due to the “domestication” of trade issues. For instance, the EU has a difficult time on subsidies due to the interests of its domestic farming communities. Meanwhile, in the US, WTO trade regulations do not apply unless they can be passed through Congress and since the end of “Fast Track” in 2007, it makes passing trade legislation very difficult (Mayes, p. 6). Ambassadors, in the end, are accountable to the interests of their constituencies and therefore limited to certain negotiating positions in the DDR. Cotton was such a challenging commodity that it had to be specifically separated from the agriculture negotiations. The challenge behind cotton stems from the heavily subsidized cotton production in the US and the fact the DDR has a development track. The DDR has been running parallel to Brazil’s case against the US in the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) regarding the legitimacy of US cotton subsidies. In 2009, the DSB ruled that the US had, in fact, failed to fulfill its commitments under the Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture and the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (ICTSD, p. 2) Thus, the US lost it’s negotiating

  the meantime, the Cotton-4 (C4) has taken on cotton negotiations as a portion of the


power within cotton negotiations and is going to be forced to make even greater concessions. In development track proposing that domestic spending on cotton be cut more deeply and at a faster rate than spending on other goods in order to promote growth and development in LDCs (ITC, p. 2). They have received support from the African Group, EU, and Brazil and their proposal is in the current draft of the cotton consensus (TN/AG/W/4/Rev.4). Agriculture and cotton are two of the greatest challenges within the DDR. While cotton has had some breakthroughs in negotiations, agriculture is currently at a standstill. Because of the dynamics in North/North, North/South, and Ambassador/Constituency relationships, agriculture continues to be an uphill battle in the DDR. PRESENT GLOBAL CONDITIONS A great deal of the tension in the recent summits in Seoul and Toronto stem from the economic situation in the aftermath of the Global Crisis in 2009 where world trade dropped some 20% (WTO Trade Report, p. 2). Even though on the edge of recession in 2008 the G-20 pledged to avoid protectionism, the World Bank shows that at least 17 of the G-20 countries have passed some 78 trade measure with 66 involving trade restrictions and 47 of them being directly implemented (Gamberoni & Newfarmer, p. 1). In agriculture, programs in the US, EU, Japan, Republic of Korea, and others have built in price supports that shield local producers from commodity price falls. These “trade distorting subsidies push the global burden of adjustment onto commodity producers in Africa, Asia, and Latin America where governments do not have resources to match subsidies of wealthier countries” (Gamberoni & Newfarmer, p. 3). The recessionary period has driven persistent food volatility higher and has placed even greater stress on developing nations to secure food sources for their people (Roache, p. 22) Because China runs an export-led model for economic growth, the 17.5% drop in exports from the Crisis created a new incentive for China to become more active in keeping trade open and growing (Lim & Wang, p. 6). Indian exports and imports dropped dramatically in top sectors such as gems and jewelry, garments and textiles, leather, and handicrafts resulting in the government attempting to make changes in it’s foreign trade policy. The policy highlights the “new underlying theme of diversification of markets and products…and have identified 26 new export markets in Latin America and Asia” (Kumar & Nair, p. 9-10). Brazil’s export markets faced the smallest losses and thus Brazil’s economic policies are mostly concerned with the

  national sector’s ability to handle the new tariffs that have been going up across the world (Nogueira, p. 7). The political situation of the world has evolved greatly since the beginning of talks for the DDR and is quite different in the start of 2011 than at the last 2008 DDR draft. In the US,


the Executive administration is now Democratic with a split Democrat and Republican Congress. This domestic situation will make the passing of legislation extremely difficult. Also, at the end of 2010, the Congress excluded the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) from the new trade legislation package. That means that the GSP program, which has been trade policy since 1974 and affects 954 different imported agricultural products, will not continue into 2011 (Kirk). India is the leading supplier of imports under the GSP program and the loss of the program will affect 22% of India’s total exports (USTR). Paired with India’s “inherent fear towards trade liberalization because of historical and political reasons as well as a lack of awareness about the implications of trade agreements”, the loss of the GSP program could be politically and economically detrimental (Kumar & Nair, p. 12). China has adopted a huge new domestic spending bill, supposedly around $586 billion, to help create a greater domestic market for their own products and reduce dependency on foreign markets (Economist, Nov. 10, 2008). Meanwhile in Brazil, the presidency was turned over from Luis Inácio Lula da Silva to another member of the Worker’s Party, Dilma Rousseff. Much of Lula’s foreign policy emphasis was on trade policy and agreements, and Rousseff will most likely continue along the same lines, however, discourse within her administration is leading towards realignment of priorities within foreign policy (Noegueira, p. 9). The transformations in diplomatic relationships, the economic crisis, as well as changes in government administrations and regulations will all factor into the upcoming round of DDR negotiations. The conditions of the global environment have altered substantially since 2001, however, it is still unknown whether the positions of all major power have sifted enough to create a consensus. What is known is that the current world situation has not limited the intentions and desires for a DDR completion.

FUTURE WTO Director General Pascal Lamy is attempting to prepare for a Doha Development Round endgame in the upcoming negotiations on 10th of January, 2011. In a statement in December 2010, DG Lamy outlined several of his aspirations for the upcoming negotiations in



hopes to garner consensus on the DDR by the end of the first quarter of 2011. Firstly, DG Lamy plans to have members work on updating the 2008 drafts to serve as a base for a final accord. As part of establishing this framework, he has also called upon all members to submit compromise proposals in order to reduce the number of disagreements over the final texts. Secondly, DG Lamy has created a schedule of ministerial negotiations in a ‘cocktail approach’ format that combines small group meetings, bilateral contacts, negotiating sessions, and consultations led by DG Lamy, himself. In the first week of negotiations, groups on rules, trade facilitation, trade and environment, intellectual property rights, and development will meet. Then in the second week, agriculture, non-agricultural market access (NAMA), services and dispute settlement negotiations will convene for discussion. Finally, DG Lamy is committed to the fact that all texts adopted in DDR legislation should come from a chair-driven bottom-up process. (Lamy, WTO News 14 December). With the framework, schedule, and process laid out, DG Lamy is setting the stage for productive, forward moving talks for the DDR. The current economic and political atmosphere across the world could act as either a catalyst or a barricade to the upcoming series of talks in the DDR. While the economic crisis has made many countries turn to semi-protectionist measures, it has also re-enforced the drive of top trading partners to locate and expand to new markets. This desire to expand to new markets could definitely work in favor of reaching consensus for new and expansive multilateral trade regulations. Politically, the recent failure of the US to continue the General System of Preferences, may work positively in negotiations because nations will need the DDR to be successful to secure market access in the US. However, political pressures within the US and EU to favor domestic producers will make it extremely difficult for their Ambassadors to maneuver within negotiations. There is an overwhelming sentiment at this time that the DDR negotiations have reached the extent of their lifespan. The EU, specifically, has announced that they plan on concluding the DDR within the year or petitioning to cancel the round (De Gucht, 15 Nov. 2010). On a whole, the US, EU, Brazil, India, and China all have great vested interest in a successful completion of the DDR and after almost ten years of talks, they have finally reached the point where they must either come to an accord or cancel the DDR altogether. CONCLUSION The Doha Development Round of World Trade Organization negotiations to create a new, updated set of trade regulations for the world has been underway since November 2001. Historically, the DDR has become the longest running set of negotiations since the formation of

  the WTO, and has still not reached international consensus. The next talks, scheduled for


January 2011, are highly pressurized due to the long historical failures of the round, the majorly polarizing challenges that it faces in regards to agriculture and cotton, and the current diplomatic, economic, and political situation of the world. In reviewing all three aspects of stress for the DDR 2011 along with the positions and intentions of the major actors, the outcome for the negotiations is still quite unpredictable.



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