ABSTRACT

Attempts to launch a new round of multilateral trade negotiations after the Uruguay round did not enjoy much support from the developing world, including Africa for several reasons. Many developing countries were of the view that the new rules arising from the Uruguay round should be fully implemented before any new round of multilateral trade negotiations could be embarked upon. This means that, according to these countries, the future activities of the World Trade Organization (WTO) should rather focus on the “built-in agenda,” brought forward from the Uruguay round, as well as address the inherent iniquities in the existing agreements. In Africa, most countries considered their increasing marginalization in the international trade arena largely as a result of unfair trade rules and the fragile prices of their export commodities. In this context, they were concerned that any new set of rules from a new round of trade negotiations could further hinder rather than promote the growth and development of their national economies.1 It was therefore this cautious environment and perception that prevailed at the WTO Ministerial Conferences before Doha, particularly Singapore in 1996, Geneva in 1998, and Seattle in 1999. In spite of the reluctance of Africa and other developing countries to

engage in any new round of multilateral trade negotiations, they subsequently compromised and agreed to the launching of the Doha round in 2001, when the “rich countries promised them that this would be different: the Doha ‘Development Round’ would focus on the reform of WTO rules, with the specific aim of boosting the participation of poor countries in international trade.”2 In fact, given the strong belief on the part of developing countries that they were short-changed during the Uruguay round, the explicit goal of the Doha round was to pay special attention to correcting past mistakes and to target reform of the multilateral trading system on development problems.3 Against this background, the Doha round of multilateral trade negotiations was expected to

produce deeper market access in goods and services, as well as a new universal framework of rules on trade reform measures. The need to address the implementation concerns of developing countries was another key pillar of the negotiations. Indeed, the Doha round has been described as a “development round” because of its focus on the trade and development needs of developing countries. However, the state of play in the Doha round negotiations since 2001 has led to growing concerns that the development mandate of the round is being sidelined. Apart from many missed deadlines for the successful conclusion of the Doha Development Agenda (DDA), the negotiations are presently experiencing such a major stalemate that the prospects for any meaningful multilateral compromises have become increasingly difficult, because the selective sectoral interests of some members appear to have taken the negotiations hostage. Thus, rather than address the priority ambition to straighten out some of the kinks in agricultural trade,4 the powerful trading nations, while minimizing their own commitments to reform, have continued to seek tariff cuts and the reduction of trade distorting support to improve their market access.5 In spite of several pronouncements by world leaders at the G-20 Summits, substantial progress is yet to be made towards successfully concluding the DDA negotiations in a manner that would remove trade barriers against the world’s poorest and most vulnerable. The prevailing stalemate in the DDA negotiations has been so pro-

tracted that even instructions by the G-20 political leaders to “negotiators to engage in across-the-board negotiations to promptly bring the Doha Development Round to a successful, ambitious, comprehensive, and balanced conclusion consistent with the mandate of the Doha Development Round and built on progress achieved”6 have not been able to significantly influence any change in positions, or the exercise of the requisite flexibilities that are needed for a major breakthrough in the negotiations. Despite intensified efforts by members in the negotiations, even the window of opportunity identified by the G-20 political leaders to successfully conclude the Doha round in 2011 could not be realized. Even attempts to focus on a few core deliverables for the least developed countries (LDCs) at the 8th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC8) in December 2011 ran into a gridlock, due to the seeking of concessions and trade-offs by the major players over such a package. Interestingly, the identified issues of interest to LDCs, including duty-free quota-free (DFQF) market access, a services waiver, simplified rules of origin, and the elimination of the distortions caused by cotton subsidies, had all been agreed to at the Hong Kong Ministerial Conference in December 2005. In that context, it is important to recall the conclusions and outcome

of the first session of the Global Poverty Summit, held at Johannesburg,

South Africa, from 17-19 January 2011. The Johannesburg Statement on the Doha Development Agenda, issued at the end of the Summit, recognized that the almost decade old negotiations “have yet to yield an outcome that contributes meaningfully to the alleviation of poverty and the promotion of economic development.”7 The Statement specifically drew attention to those issues that need to be addressed, in order to ensure that an equitable and opportune outcome of the negotiations is realized. It encouraged WTO members urgently to reach agreement on, inter alia, an “early harvest” for LDCs; capacity building and aid for trade; non-agricultural market access; policy space and balanced rules; intellectual poverty rights; and agriculture and food security. In terms of an “early harvest” for LDCs, six key areas were identified

by the Johannesburg Statement. First, agreement and implementation of DFQF access for all products originating from the LDCs into the markets of all developed WTO members and those developing country members in a position to do so, prior to the conclusion of the DDA. Second, establishment of an annual reporting mechanism on the implementation of DFQF market access that goes beyond the current annual reporting mechanism under the Committee on Trade and Development (CTD) to include the implementation of legally binding commitments. Third, simplified and liberalized rules of origin, which reduce bureaucratic burdens and allow LDCs and their firms to import inputs from the most efficient suppliers, in order to enhance their competitiveness and enable them to take full advantage of trade opportunities arising from DFQF market access. Fourth, fast-tracking of the elimination of export subsidies and trade-distorting domestic support measures in developed countries, particularly the immediate elimination of those on cotton, which have caused the decimation of cotton farmers and threatened livelihoods in the “Cotton Four” countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, and Mali). Fifth, substantial improvements in market access for services exports of LDCs under Mode 4 of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), particularly temporary movement of persons and outsourcing in various sectors such as health, education, and call centers. Finally, reform and acceleration of the accession process for LDCs to ensure that acceding LDCs are not required to undertake commitments beyond those of existing WTO members at the same level of development. On capacity building and aid for trade, the Johannesburg Statement

called for adjustments to be made to address any erosion of preferences resulting from the conclusion of the DDA for LDCs and small and vulnerable economies (SVEs) through the provision of effective financial and technical cooperation by developed countries, as well as realistic

transition time-frames for adjustment to encourage sustainable diversification and to mitigate any negative effects of the reform process. The Statement emphasized the need for substantial and predictable aid for trade, which should not be linked to the negotiations to remove trade barriers and other distortions. While calling for the early implementation and full utilization of technical assistance and capacity building programs under the proposed Trade Facilitation Agreement, it urged that the WTO be mandated to monitor aid for trade commitments as well as to build this into the aid for trade global review process, starting with its July 2011 meeting. In the Non-Agricultural Market Access (NAMA) negotiations, the

Johannesburg Statement underscored the key elements for policy space and balanced rules to enable developing countries to adopt industrial policies to promote new industries, including the need for developing country commitments to be commensurate with their level of development; an ambitious program to address non-tariff barriers in developed country markets; and the creation of significant new market access for products of export interest to developing countries, including tariff escalation to allow for value addition. Regarding agriculture, the Statement emphasized the need to ensure that the outcome of the Doha round, inter alia, leads to fundamental reforms in developed country agriculture through real and effective cuts in domestic support programs; elimination of export subsidies at the end of 2013 as agreed at the Hong Kong Ministerial Conference in 2005; and the provision of adequate flexibilities for special products and the special safeguard mechanism (SSM), in order to address the rural development, food security, and livelihood concerns of developing countries. Finally, the Statement underscored the need to reform the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) to enable developing countries to utilize the flexibilities under the TRIPs and Public Health amendments to access more affordable medicines; as well as to include a mandatory disclosure of origin requirement to prevent the bio-piracy of the genetic resources and traditional knowledge of developing countries, in accordance with the Convention on Biological Diversity. Apart from these pronouncements by the Johannesburg Global Poverty

Summit, there has also been a widespread debate on the development prospects of the current trade rules for African countries, especially with respect to poverty reduction and economic development. This debate has covered a wide variety of perspectives. One point of view, particularly within the civil society community, dwells on the usual play of power politics and perceived “underhand” negotiating tactics between developed and developing countries.8 At the heart of this perspective

are the concerns over the deep-rooted practices and pitfalls of the WTO negotiating process and allegations of divide-and-rule tactics by Brussels and Washington. Apparently, at issue also is whether the WTO is ostensibly a democratic system, where decisions taken on the basis of consensus, can actually address the interests of all members rather than just those of the rich and powerful. In terms of substance, the debate has been mostly on what comprises

a pro-development Doha round package, and whether the negotiations can actually deliver on such an outcome. In terms of the former, the various views canvassed broadly include issues such as the elimination of unfair trade practices by developed countries especially trade-distorting subsidies, export subsidies and export credits as well as a defense mechanism against subsidized exports in agriculture. There is also the element of effective market access conditions for products of export interest to developing countries in developed country markets for goods and services. The need for trade and development policy space for developing countries with respect to their agricultural, industrial, services, and intellectual property sectors has also been emphasized. Other elements of a pro-development Doha outcome that are being canvassed in the discussions relate to special and differential treatment (SDT); non-tariff barriers; the relationship between regional trade agreements and WTO provisions; trade and non-trade concerns regarding preference erosion as well as commodity issues; and technical and financial assistance to enable developing countries and LDCs to overcome those challenges relating to supply-side constraints, so as to be able to take advantage of opportunities arising from global trade liberalization. On whether the Doha round can actually deliver on its development

mandate, there are those who consider the early successful conclusion of the negotiations and implementation as the pre-requisites for the achievement of that goal. The respective responsibilities of both developed and developing countries in such a context have also been discussed.9 Overall, various views have been expressed as to whether the DDA, within its current mandate and structure should be abandoned, or whether new issues should be introduced to address the current challenges and realities of the global economy. WTO members, under these circumstances, have also been preoccupied with the future direction of the organization, including the possibility of deliverables at the MC8 and a post-MC8 work program. The purpose of this chapter is to contribute to this debate on the

challenges facing the DDA negotiations and the implications for African countries. I express support for the position that the Doha round must be completed in accordance with its mandate. I have also tried to

define the contours of the possible approaches that WTO members may need to explore, in order to reach fair, balanced, and multilaterally agreed solutions. To that end, section two reviews the key elements of the development mandate of the Doha round alongside the negotiating objectives of African countries. The state of play, including the significance and dynamics arising from the current impasse in the negotiations are discussed in section three. In section four, I present my reasons as to why the Doha round must be concluded while in section five I offer my concluding comments.