First Diagnose, then Treat: What Ails the Doha Round?

30 Pages Posted: 11 Jan 2014 Last revised: 14 Jan 2014

See all articles by Robert Wolfe

Robert Wolfe

Queen's University - School of Policy Studies

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: November 1, 2013


The commonplace tendency is to blame the difficulties of the Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations on the World Trade Organization (WTO) itself. In contrast, I suggest in the first part of this paper that exogenous structural factors, especially changing commodity prices and trade flows, fatally undermined the round. In the second part I discount the significance of endogenous institutional factors such as the number of participants, the size of the agenda, or the Single Undertaking, although design failures, notably in the “modalities” for negotiation, did hurt. But what hurt even more was the way the WTO, in common with most multilateral organizations, has not caught up with the shifting centre of gravity in global governance. The trading system is no longer a transatlantic bargain. The regulatory issues on the 21st century trade policy agenda will inevitably be negotiated in Geneva, but only after a new trans-Pacific accommodation recognizes China’s central role.

Keywords: WTO, Doha round, trade agreements, negotiations, international cooperation

Suggested Citation

Wolfe, Robert, First Diagnose, then Treat: What Ails the Doha Round? (November 1, 2013). Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies Research Paper No. 2013/85, Available at SSRN: or

Robert Wolfe (Contact Author)

Queen's University - School of Policy Studies ( email )

Ontario K7L 3N6

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