WTO’s changing architecture

The ‘developing’ and ‘least developed’ countries have evolved a two-pronged approach: to keep fighting for their due rights and tariffs within the WTO; and create various safety nets in the form of bilateral and regional trading arrangements.

The head of the Brazilian delegation Celso Amorim and Indian Commerce Minister Kamal Nath, the two spokespersons of the developing countries at the WTO ministerial summit in Hong Kong, were never tired of stressing the growing power of the developing countries. Outlining the changing contours of international trade, they thundered, "The architecture of the international trade negotiations has changed forever and no unilateral decisions can be imposed upon the developing and the vulnerable economies." But this bravado was not enough to convince the activists, who continue to see the G-20 as a front for the rich countries to pursue their economic agenda. Truth, as usual, lies between these two extreme points of view.

In 2001, the developing countries, for the first time, managed to push the 'development agenda' as an integral part of any multilateral trading arrangement. They succeeded in launching a new round of trade talks, and unlike the Uruguay Round, which took nearly eight years to conclude and led to the creation of GATT's successor, WTO, the Doha Round was supposed to be a quick affair empowering the developing and the Least Developed Countries. The Doha round was also supposed to establish a regime of 'fair trade' as opposed to 'free trade' by factoring various elements such as vulnerabilities, sustainability and commitment to total eradication of poverty.

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Himal Southasian