BBC: Whither the World Trade Organization?

12/16/2015

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Dec 15, 2015 | Source: BBC Does the World Trade Organization matter anymore? That is the big question hanging over the WTO as trade ministers from its member countries gather in Nairobi. They are heading to the Kenyan capital for the WTO’s tenth ministerial conference. The organisation is increasingly at risk of being side-lined as groups of countries do trade and investment deals outside it.

The WTO was established in 1995 to be the main forum for trade rules and for negotiating the removal of barriers to international commerce.

It is conducting a wide-ranging set of negotiations intended to take this process further. It is called the Doha Round, and it was launched in the Qatari capital 14 years ago.

It is still limping along despite the original target for completing the talks being the beginning of 2005.

So far all it really has to show is an agreement on improving customs procedures, known as the Trade Facilitation Agreement.

The wider negotiations – to reduce tariffs (taxes on imports), farm subsidies and remove many other trade barriers – have failed to produce results.

Many countries have turned their attention to negotiating in smaller groups. The prime examples are the United States’ negotiations with Pacific nations and with the European Union.

Is the Doha Round finished?

It’s very unlikely that the Nairobi conference will pronounce it dead. Some countries, including India, Indonesia and Venezuela want a formal reaffirmation of the declaration issued back in Doha.

 

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