The Doha Rounds and Multilateral Trade

It’s over two years now since the World trade organization ‘effectively’ ended negotiations on the Doha Rounds, but what Impact could it have had on global trade?

What are the Doha Rounds?

The Doha Development Round of WTO negotiations which started in 2001 essentially sought to tackle this, as a means of lowering Global trade barriers through cutting subsidies to a level where unsubsidized exports would have been competitive.

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The Doha ministerial declaration gave birth to the ‘Doha Rounds’ of multilateral trade negotiations with the main objective of lowering trade barriers among other things, thereby fundamentally tackling sticky issues like agricultural subsidies employed by developed nations which continues to empower their domestic agricultural sectors in an effort to create monopoly and drive out competition in global trade.

The Importance of Agriculture

The West spends billions of dollars in direct agricultural subsidies, annually, basically giving artificial economic power to their domestic agricultural sectors

Agriculture is arguably one aspect where developing and least developed countries enjoy a comparative advantage but remains a sector that is overwhelmingly subsidized in developed countries, something that global trade experts effectively considered as a barrier to trade.

The Doha Development Round of WTO negotiations which started in 2001 essentially sought to tackle this, as a means of lowering Global trade barriers through cutting subsidies to a level where unsubsidized exports would have been competitive.

The West spends billions of dollars in direct agricultural subsidies, annually, basically giving artificial economic power to their domestic agricultural sectors thus making it extremely difficult if not impossible for any outside competition.  In fact, such agricultural subsidies also continue to create what is termed as ‘international dumping’ whereby subsidized farmers ‘dump’low-cost agricultural goods in foreign markets and drives out local farmers from developing countries as these governments do not have the economic might to grant fat agricultural financial backing.

As Lord Mark Malloch Brown, former head of the UNDP succinctly puts it in one of his interviews: “it is this extraordinary distortion of global trade, where the West spends $360 billion a year on protecting its agriculture with a network of subsidies and tariffs that costs developing countries about US$50 billion in potential lost agricultural exports.”

And so the ‘death’ of this ambitious Doha Development Agenda (DDA) has grossly damaged the credibility of globalization and is profusely hurting the least-developed countries, which are increasingly becoming anxious to export some of their agricultural goods into the western markets.

The Example of Haiti

A good example of a country adversely affected by agricultural subsidies in the developed world is Haiti. With a capacity to produce enough rice to feed its people, but it is now largely dependent on imported subsidized food as the unsubsidized local farmers can no more compete with the incursion of ‘international dumping’.

This is the magnitude of the trade barrier that the Doha Rounds intended to wipe out.

But these negotiations which were originally planned to conclude in 2005 continue to draw stalemate after more than a decade of the initially planned date of conclusion of talks.

There doesn’t seem to be any solution to the impasse and with over two years after the last WTO ministerial meeting in Nairobi, and with substantially no agreement thus far, we can safely say that the Doha Round has finally died. Developing countries will be looking across their shoulders at what could have been, as they continuously accede to agreements which essentially only allow the west to benefit.

Abraham Zaqi Kromah 

Director of Young Diplomats Liberia

Abraham Zaqi is passionate young Liberian about international affairs and diplomacy, especially economic diplomacy and the rising powers.My interest is how to be able to use diplomacy and global relations as a tool to promote equal opportunities for both the developing and developed states.As a law school graduate, I focus my research efforts mainly on the legal instruments that underlie international affairs.I am presently an LLM student with a very strong concentration on mainly the WTO and its various agreements as a means of promoting multilateral trade.

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