Things Fall Apart: Doha and the End of the Post-War Trade Consensus

Kent Jones

Published: December 2012

This paper focuses on the failure of the Doha Round, representing the end of the post-war multilateral consensus on comprehensive trade liberalisation established in the GATT. The need to achieve consensus, combined with the requirement of a single undertaking, created an enormous burden on the WTO’s negotiating structure. The traditional informal methods of committee chair-led consensus building and intervention by the Director-General (D-G) in smallgroup ‘green room’ meetings, inherited from the GATT, could not achieve a final agreement in the Doha Round. The changing balance of bargaining power, the large and diverse membership, and a complicated negotiating agenda appear to have reduced the ‘zone of agreement’ within which WTO members could negotiate. In addition, the disappointments among many developing countries with the Uruguay Round, combined with the concerns of all members regarding the legalisation of trade commitments through dispute settlement, have eroded trust in the informal processes and the effectiveness of the D-G. New negotiating structures are needed in order to make broad-based multilateral trade liberalisation possible.

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