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As the Key WTO Doha Round Stocktaking 'Summit' Announced at the November 2009 WTO Ministerial Vaporizes this Week, Will a New Negotiating Agenda Finally Be Considered?

Statement of Lori Wallach, Director, Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch Division

WASHINGTON - This week's World Trade Organization (WTO) Doha Round stocktaking
meeting was a far cry from the ministerial-level summit that WTO
officials had announced late last year was critical for completing the
beleaguered negotiations in 2010. Deep divisions about the substance and
process of negotiations resulted in the vaunted spring stocktaking
summit being downgraded to sessions this week among Geneva-based country
representatives and some senior officials from member country capitals.

As the downgraded meeting started, WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy
noted that "many eyes are on us this week," and that the meeting had
been organized in response to the call by WTO member countries' trade
ministers when they met at the seventh WTO Ministerial Conference last
December. Lamy said that the "signal that we are able to send from this
week, this stocktaking, will be closely watched by a broader world
community, not just be trade negotiators."

That there is insufficient support for or progress on the Doha Round
agenda even to allow for a legitimate stocktaking summit of countries'
decision-makers is the signal that confirms what many WTO member
countries say off the record: We will not see conclusion of the Doha
Round this year or anytime soon, if ever.

The question is, when will WTO member countries agree to replace the
Doha Round with an updated agenda? The Doha Round was launched in 2001
with a 2005 deadline, so it is not surprising that its terms conflict
with resolution of the key challenges countries face today as financial
and climate crises dominate global policymaking efforts.


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Rather than proposing remedies to the financial and climate crises,
the Doha Round agenda includes further financial deregulation and energy
sector proposals that conflict with efforts now under way by the Obama
administration and Congress and in other nations to stabilize the
economy and transition to a low-carbon future. Talks that include, for
instance, the special Doha Round working party, whose only function is
to set new disciplines limiting domestic regulation of all service
sectors, have no place in an era when global leaders are calling for
climate protection measures and financial services reregulation.

Given that World Bank studies project that implementation of the
current agenda would offer limited gains to developed countries and
result in net losses for most African, Asian, Arab, Caribbean and Latin
American nations, it is not surprising that the many countries now
focused on combating high unemployment remain unenthusiastic about the
Doha Round.

U.S. officials' messaging on the Doha Round, like that of most WTO
member countries, remains schizophrenic; statements invariably begin by
reiterating commitment to the Doha Round's quick completion and then
proceed to enumerate the many deep problems with it and fundamental
changes necessary before agreement is possible. Underlying these
statements is a difficult reality: No country wants to be blamed for
pulling the plug on these WTO talks, even as many seek a new approach.


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