The Death of Doha? Forensics of Democratic Governance, Distributive Justice, and Development in the WTO
Cornell Law School
May 2, 2012
Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 12-18
The Development Agenda of the 2001 Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization in Doha represents an attempt to achieve greater distributive justice amongst WTO Members by enhancing the prospects for development through trade among poorer countries. Development and democratic governance (as between states) intertwine here: because developing countries represent the majority of WTO Members, more democratic and broader participation by developing countries also entails a policy emphasis on redistribution.
Efforts to pursue the Doha Declaration’s Work Programme have proceeded slowly and with great difficulty: the 2003 Ministerial Conference in Cancun ended abruptly, and subsequent efforts to revive negotiations in the 2005 Ministerial and subsequent gatherings stumbled badly. As a consequence, over the years since its adoption, commentators have tolled the death knell for the Doha Development Agenda.
As this chapter shows, many of the problems confronting the Doha Agenda can be described as institutional – collective action problems that undermine the benefits of coordination of state behavior potentially available from international institutions. The chapter argues that underlying and perhaps exacerbating these coordination difficulties lay deep normative contradictions. These contradictions were perhaps easier to overlook with a smaller set of key players of earlier trade rounds; in the broader negotiations following Doha, they are much harder to ignore.
With these difficulties facing attempts at democratic governance in the WTO, perhaps it would be easier to eschew the time-consuming, logistically complicated scenario of negotiations in favor of some kind of substantive principle that could be more easily implemented from a top-down perspective – i.e. a constitutionalism of development. The Framework Agreement on Special and Differential Treatment proposed by some developing countries, for example, has featured in the Doha negotiations as one such project.
This chapter also expresses skepticism about this project, however, addressing various kinds of uncertainties about Special and Differential Treatment (SD). First, the incorporation of SD into WTO decisions in the dispute settlement system may not produce the outcomes developing country governments would anticipate. Second, even if an interpretation of SD in conformity with the developing-country governments’ traditional position could be assured, this would not necessarily adhere to their benefit. SD, it turns out, may be no more infallible as an approach to trade policy than a neoclassical imperative to liberalize.
Finally, the chapter turns to recent contributions from moral philosophy regarding the potential structure of distributive justice in the WTO, which are noteworthy interventions, but which yet ultimately cannot avoid the conundrums of trade and development that will require ultimately overt decisionmaking on behalf of redistribution.
Reviewing the causes and implications of these myriad flaws and shortcomings, the chapter concludes nevertheless that efforts to reach negotiated agreements in the Doha round represent a crucial step forward. The challenges and obstacles confronting those efforts should be confronted directly, and indeed can only be resolved by doing so.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 57
Keywords: Doha, WTO, trade, work programme, distributive justice, moral philosophyworking papers series
Date posted: May 10, 2012
© 2013 Social Science Electronic Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
This page was processed by apollo3 in 0.407 seconds