With a new Brazilian director, Roberto Azevedo, at the head of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) preparing for a big meeting this December in Bali, some African negotiators are asking if Doha should be off the agenda.
Yes We think, from our standpoint, it may be better that the Doha Round fail altogether than come up with a compromise that will not satisfy our countries. We think that the Doha round is within the framework of a neoliberal agenda of the WTO, and that's not in the best interest of African countries, especially the least-developed countries. What the United States and the European Union (EU) are looking for is to open up all borders, and it's not good for Africa: more trade liberalisation, more free flows of capital, while at the same time they keep subsidising their agricultural exports, circumventing the rules of the WTO. We will be pushing for the US and Europe to give the least-developed countries a waiver not to implement the TRIPS [Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights] agreement so that they can have some room in the health and medical sectors. We are also calling for the US and especially Europe to give quota-free, duty-free access to products coming from the least-developed countries●
No I don't agree that Africa has gotten zero out of the Doha Round. When you look at the visibility which has come as a result of some of the 'aid for trade' events, looking at infrastructure, the level of debate that has gone on about the need for transformation, the need for regional integration, I think those have in fact been enhanced by the interest of the WTO. The agenda of Africa has been very much on the table. No, it hasn't happened the way we expected it to happen, but I think when you recognise that trade is much higher on the agenda today than it ever has been, that has a lot to do with the intricacies of the dialogue that has taken place, the involvement of Africans in the debate at the WTO on these various issues and the whole aid for trade agenda. Maybe three months down the line we'll know whether [an agreement in Bali] is possible or not. Clearly, the new director general of the WTO will very much, as far as I know, be focusing on trying to ensure that the WTO works well. It'll be difficult to know whether the conclusion of the Doha Round will be a priority or whether it will be some new agenda that will be delivered and agreed upon by the member states. The Doha Round as a single undertaking is definitely dead. The Doha Round in terms of some harvest that can be delivered, I think that is certainly the way it's going to move forward●