Is the negotiating agenda of the Doha Round too narrow?

March 27, 2008

The Doha patient is still in a coma. Surgical intervention is not in sight yet. But the complementary psychoanalysis at least has started….

With the risk of being accused of promoting only one institution’s reasearch, may I just draw the reader’s attention to a brand new paper by Peter Kleen, Senior Fellow for ECIPE and former head of the Swedish National Board of Trade. In the last months he has been comparing the Uruguay Round with the Doha Round, and trying to extract what their main differences and similarities are, in order to help find out what it is that blocs Doha. The results are summarized in his “So Alike and Yet So Different: A Comparison Between the Uruguay Round and the Doha Round.” The paper reveals many things – developing country coalitions have become more fluid and defensive, business support is not strong because of continued de facto globalization, FTAs and global growth, NGOs play a bigger role. But the Doha Round itself is a not as bold and innovative as the Uruguay Round, which created a new institution and brought in agriculture, services and TRIPs. I very much liked this idea:

“The Uruguay Round introduced into the world trading rules comprehensive frameworks in trade in services and intellectual property. In the Doha Round, however, the only truly new issues [.i.e. three “Singapore issues” – investment, competition, transparency in government procurement”] were eventually dropped.

By scaling down the Doha agenda, the focus on the market access issues in the goods area has increased. A success depends on breaking the “iron triangle”—getting the European Union (EU) to move on agricultural tariffs, the United States (US) on domestic agricultural support and the major developing countries on industrial tariffs. The complicating factors are that further reductions of support and tariffs are politically highly sensitive for many developed and developing countries and there are extremely limited possible trade-offs with concessions in other negotiating areas. Hence the present stalemate.”


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