Attempt to Continue from Previously Collapsed Talks
The previous major WTO meeting was in Cancun, Mexico, in September 2003. However, those trade talks collapsed because:
Richer countries wanted to talk about newer issues that mostly they themselves would have benefited from;
Poorer countries wanted to finish older issues mostly on agriculture that affected them the most, especially the impact of European and U.S. subsidies on their own agriculture and lack of access to those markets.
The continued non-transparent and non-democratic processes in decision-making and draft text writing, combined with procedure-abusing and arm-twisting tactics by the powerful blocs such as the US and European Union (EU) has constantly meant that poorer countries are dealt with an unfair deal. This was no different for Cancun.
For example, the powerful countries and blocks isolated groups of poorer countries to discuss aspects of the agreements (weakening poorer countries' ability to negotiate and discuss). In addition threats of things like withdrawal of much-needed aid would once again be used.
However, for the first time developing countries made a somewhat successful and united stand against the powerful richer countries to represent their concerns.
For more details on what happened at Cancun, see for example, the following:
Divide and Rule: The EU and US response to developing country alliances at the WTO
1, ActionAid, July 2004. This report looks at what happened at Cancun and how since the collapse of the meeting, the EU and US have tried to split developing country alliances and force their own interests at the expense of poor countries using intimidation at the WTO.
Attempt to Create a Package of Framework Agreements
After the deadlock, WTO members in Geneva tried to restart the talks. An agreement was reached to have a package of framework agreements by the end of July, 2004. The first draft of the July package was circulated on 16 July. Negotiations started in the fortnight beginning 19 July.
Drafts of Agreement Draws Predictable Criticism from Third World
As with the previous trade meetings, the draft texts drew criticism from most of the third world. For example there was concern on many angles, including the following:
The drafts fell short of some of the Doha mandates back in 2001;
There was lack of progress on development issues yet again (despite being continually highlighted);
Key issues for development were ignored and not even part of the first draft text, such as
Trade, debt and finance;
Trade and technology transfer
and Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) in relation to public health
Issues of interest to developing countries were not detailed out but other issues of interest to developed countries were detailed;
There were concerns about the new blue box domestic subsidies presented by the US, seen as a way to protect some of its own industries while also allowing more economic dumping, counter to global free trade principles;
There was a low priority on issues of implementation (e.g. anti-dumping, investment (TRIMS), sanitary measures (SPS) and technical barriers to trade) because of the reluctance of developed countries to deal with them.
Some non-trade issues which richer countries had previously wanted to increase their market share were removed such as investment, competition, transparency in government procurement. Side NoteThese are important issues in their own right, but beyond scope of these trade meetings, requiring separate efforts. With richer countries adding these in, without everyone agreeing on all the outstanding existing issues raised criticism from the third world as as example of continued disregard to the third world, while only promoting their own agendas.
For more details at these concerns and criticisms, see the following as an example:
Developing Countries' Initial Responses to Draft July Package2, by Martin Khor, Third World Network, July 2004. This article summarizes reactions from many member countries and regions.
Widening divergences over July package3 by Chakravarthi Raghavan, Third World Network, July 26, 2004
North tactics to split developing-country alliances exposed4, by Kanaga Raja, Third World Network, July 26, 2004
D-Day for the WTO
5, by Walden Bello, Focus on the Global South, July 28, 2004
US blocking trade deal at WTO6, Oxfam, July 28, 2004
Oxfam condemns proposed trade deal for failing poor countries7, Oxfam, July 30, 2004
WTO’s Empty Framework Allows Agricultural Dumping to Continue
8, Trade Observatory, July 30, 2004
Doha Round: last-ditch effort to find agreement on package deal underway9, Bridges Weekly, International Centre on Trade and Sustainable Development, Volume 8, Number 26, 21 July 2004