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WTO Public Forum debates Doha Round and multilateralism

The WTO Public Forum sessions were held in Geneva from 19th to 21st September, 2011. The last day was devoted to debates on development, environment, patents and the internet. In the 33rd Session on ‘The Doha Round and Multilateralism: Stakes for LDCs and SVEs”, the panelists agreed that the failures of the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) cannot dominate the whole multilateral trading system, and that they should not imply that multilateralism is dead.

Prof. Alan Winters of University of Sussex was quoted by WTO as stating that the Doha Round was not promising for small, vulnerable economies (SVEs) and least developed countries (LDCs) but multilateralism was worth preserving. India’s former Permanent Representative to the WTO, Mr. Ujal Singh Bhatia (Permanent Representative of India to the WTO) stated that the deadlock in the DDA victimised LDCs and SVEs. He said that multilateral process can function as an antidote to the failures of globalisation and Aid for Trade and the Enhanced Integrated Framework played a role in the impotence of LDCs and SVEs. Mr. Bhatia also stated that abandoning the Doha Agenda would create a climate of distrust.

Mr. Bonapas Onguglo from UNCTAD said there was a need for a “development audit” at the national level. He expressed the view that the most important cost of failure of the DDA would be the loss of the development dimension on the multilateral trading system. “Trade liberalization is a tool used but not a panacea for development”, Mr. Onguglo said.

The Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations was intended to be completed in 2004 but has dragged on till now. The negotiations were named ‘Development Round’ but the question of market access and farm subsidies besides other contentious issues have been disappointing to least-developed countries (LDCs) and small vulnerable economies (SVEs). The Doha deadlock is also being regarded in certain quarters as a challenge to multilateralism.

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