Mainstreaming Development in the WTO: Developing Countries in the Doha Round

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Author: Faizel Ismail

Published by: FES Geneva & CUTS International

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At the time of the Doha launch there was much criticism by developing countries of the impact of the last trade round i.e., the Uruguay Round. Developing countries felt that the Uruguay Round Agreements were unfair as not only did they fail to provide equitable access for the products of developing countries in developed country markets, but they also created greater burdens upon developing countries and eroded their policy space. These issues were called ‘Implementation Issues'. One such ‘Implementation Issue' they raised was that the special and differential treatment (S&DT) provisions that were supposed to provide for their particular developmental concerns in the GATT were in fact ineffective.

This book is about the role of developing countries in the WTO Doha Round. And it is about the promise to rebalance the GATT/WTO towards greater equity and somewhat in favour of developing countries during this round. The previous eight GATT trade negotiating rounds were perceived to have skewed the multilateral trading system in favour of developed countries. Developing countries and indeed civil society groups from all over the world have perceived the WTO, and its predecessor GATT, to be unfair, its rules to be in favour of developed countries, and its decision-making system to be opaque and undemocratic.

Thus in the first few years of the Doha Round developing countries placed a great deal of emphasis on the need to reach agreement on a large number of S&DT proposals that they put on the negotiating agenda at the Doha Ministerial Conference. These proposals called for the existing S&DT provisions to be made more precise, mandatory and operational.

The Doha Declaration called for the creation of a Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) to set up negotiating mechanisms and bodies under its supervision. The TNC in turn created a number of special negotiating bodies to thrash out the issues that the mandate required negotiations on. The negotiations on the review of the S&DT proposals were to take place in the Committee on Trade and Development, Special Session (CTDSS). This committee was required to report both to the TNC and to the General Council of the WTO. In March 2004, I was nominated by the members of the WTO to serve as Chair of the CTDSS. I held this position for two years, i.e. until March 2006.