The WTO Doha negotiations have formally resumed. However, it remains doubtful if they will progress towards a resolution by July when the US President’s fast track negotiating authority expires. The reason is lack of forward movement from major negotiators either on agriculture subsidy and tariff reduction or future import quotas, the two most intractable issues in the Round. Countries are loathe to be seen by their domestic constituencies as having given up too much in as sensitive a sector as agriculture.
Does that mean that the DDA will remain stuck at least until after the next US Presidential election or is there is a way forward? If not, what has to give for a speedy conclusion? In this context the choice between a “Doha-lite” outcome, that is, a shallow low-ambition agreement, or abandoning the Uruguay Round concept of the Single-Undertaking modality perhaps becomes relevant.
The latter is preferable. A Doha-lite outcome is unlikely to satisfy anyone. It will probably also not serve the objective of strengthening the multilateral negotiating system. In contrast a high-ambition deal on a few select issues like NAMA, trade facilitation, and services including GATS Article VI negotiations, combined with some minimal advance in agriculture (including elimination of export subsidies by 2013) and the already agreed aid for trade package would advance the multilateral cause and help sustain the credibility of WTO to revert back to a more substantive agriculture liberalization at a later date. This would also serve India’s interests because it will have consolidated its newly acquired status as one of the principal negotiators in the WTO. That gain should be grasped and nurtured.
RAJIV KUMAR AND SUPARNA KARMAKAR