WTO Doha “Development” Trade Round Collapse, 2006

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  • by Anup Shah
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Supposed to be a Development round of trade talks, the almost five year-long Doha round collapsed at the end of July, 2006. The US found itself on the defensive as around the world blame was directed at the US, in particular by the EU. However, the EU has also been part of the reason for failure throughout the five years.

On this page:

  1. Meeting fails because US feels developing countries not reciprocating on trade concessions.
  2. Media attention lacking
  3. Failure since the Doha Round started in 2001

Meeting fails because US feels developing countries not reciprocating on trade concessions.

Technically, the US was blamed for causing the collapse in July 2006, because it felt that developing countries would not open markets in the same way that it was being asked to open its and so it saw no point in continuing the talks. It wanted what would seem like a fair deal: rich countries open their market, and poor countries do the same in return. Without understanding context or history, this sounds just and equal.

However, as discussed throughout this site, global trade has always been unequal, in favor of, dominated by, and influenced by, the rich countries. Hence, this tit for tat reciprocation, would continue the unequal global trade—under the guise of equality.

The Doha Development Round, as it has been known, was nicknamed that way to show that this round of trade negotiations were to favor poor countries’ ability to develop and prosper from global trade, while acknowledging the unequal nature of global trade, dominated by industrialized countries, at the direct expense of the developing world.

India’s commerce minister, Kamal Nath noted similar things:

This is a Development Round, completing it is extremely important but equally important is the content of the Round. The content has to demonstrate new opportunities for developing countries, primarily market access of developing countries into markets of developed countries.

This Round is not for perpetuating the flaws in global trade especially in agriculture, it’s not to open markets in developing countries in order for developed countries to have access for their subsidized products to developing countries.

We say the Round should correct the structural flaws and distortions in the system, and there should be fair trade, not only free trade. They [US] say we want market access and only if we get it the way we want it can we correct the structural flaws. There is no equity in that argument.

Kamal Nath, quoted by Martin Khor, All Doha talks suspended at WTO as G6 Ministerial collapses, Third World Network, July 24, 2006 (Emphasis Added)

Trade issues expert, Martin Khor, also added: Asked if the US and EU Ministers were shedding crocodiles tears when they said they were sorry for developing countries that the talks had failed, Nath said those countries had got the whole concept of the Round inverted, they that advocated market access that would displace millions of farmers, and this was a problem of their whole mindset. This is not what the Doha Declaration and the Hong Kong Declaration is about.

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Media attention lacking

If you lived in places such as the US or UK, you would be forgiven for not knowing that one of the most important meetings that affect almost all of the planet failed.

There was hardly a mention in many western mainstream media, certainly not on prime time television news broadcasts, that such an important meeting was taking place. Only as the meetings ended with dramatic collapse did the media appear to turn attention to this. Yet the headlines were more about the sensational bickering between the EU and US as to who was to blame for the collapse.

Maybe the media could be excused because of the conflict in Lebanon at the time, so that the media was not watching proceedings at the WTO talks. But those talks affect almost all of humanity. Do we really believe that the large mainstream media companies do not have resources to cover multiple major issues around the world at least?

Some may ask whether it matters if the media in the western mainstream cover this or not? Democracies are supposed to be accountable by an informed citizenry. The mainstream media is supposed to provide a window into issues to do with humanity and more, and with their vast resources, they are vital for a functioning and accounable democracy. Furthermore, as explained throughout this site, many of the industrialized nations have dominated global talks to ensure global trade is unequal in their favor.

In India for example, IPS News reported that India’s federal agriculture minister Sharad Pawar confirmed in May that between 1993 and 2003, at least 100,000 farmers had killed themselves because of their inability to repay loans, because the country’s agriculture sector was suffering in part due to the unequal nature of global trade. That is an average of 10,000 deaths each year. Just like bombs in a war or conflict, trade related issues also kill. Except the victims, sometimes far more numerous than a given conflict, die silently. In contrast, the media will report the more sensational deaths and suffering caused by natural disasters and conflict, however.

In the same report, IPS News also noted that in India, there was rare unity amongst diverse groups that the decision for India to quit the Doha round was a good one, implying that if rich countries are refusing to budge, then developing countries such as India would lose out by continuing a fruitless development round.

It may be a reasonable guess to assume that most citizens of these countries actually want their fellow humanbeings around the world to be treated fairly and justly. If the media does not report what their leaders are doing, how else will they know? Without deeper context, shallow arguments such as requiring poor countries to open their markets even more because the rich countries are doing it, are made without any scrutiny.

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Failure since the Doha Round started in 2001

The failure was not just a sudden one. The history of the Doha round has been filled with double-talk, with rich countries often demanding poor countries concede ground in unfair ways, with poor countries occassionally taking a strong stance against these demands, and the EU and US in particular driving for more open markets in poorer countries, sometimes even blaming the poorer countries for failed talks, or calling deals criticized as bad for the poor, as good for the poor.

Those meetings and the issues raised at that time are covered in more depth in separate articles on this web site:

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Author and Page Information

  • by Anup Shah
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