Is the WTO Passe?: Exploring the Meaning of the Doha Debacle
53 Pages Posted: 18 May 2009 Last revised: 16 Aug 2012
Date Written: May 1, 2009
Confronting two formidable crises, one internal (the Doha debacle) and the other external (the global financial crisis), this Article explores the fundamental question: has the WTO become irrelevant or even passé? After sketching a recidivistic pattern of collapses and resumptions, the Article locates the root cause of the current Doha deadlock in the stark philosophical divergence between developed (North) and developing (South) countries on the nature of the Doha “Development” Round. Development has become a “liability” to the North, while it still remains a "goal" to the South. Given this situation, the Doha Round may be relegated to inconvenience, irrelevance or incorrectness as far as politicians of both Worlds are concerned. Nonetheless, the current dire situation of the global economy adds fresh exigency in delivering a successful trade round.
The focus of the Article's proposal in tackling this structural challenge is long-term. The Article argues that WTO members should shift their main paradigm in establishing trade policies from an "external" dimension (the WTO itself) to an "internal" dimension (internal politics). It views that unless WTO Members radically change the way in which they formulate trade policies domestically, from a top-down to a bottom-up approach which fully reflects the general welfare of citizens and the whole economy, the Doha round (and future WTO rounds) will still be at the mercy of contingencies and vicissitudes which special interests provide. Only through a vibrant democratic discourse on the genuine merits of free trade in the domestic arena, which comprises education, social marketing and transparent deliberations, can WTO members break away from the myopia of parochial mercantilism and establish trade policies from a mature standpoint of openness and competition.
Keywords: WTO, Doha Round, development, social marketing, deliberation
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