Decoupling WTO from Doha

Can the WTO be decoupled from Doha? is the question that seems to be on everybody’s mind these days, particularly considering that most likely Doha will not be concluded this year (if at all). Excerpt of an article by Ujal Singh Bhatia, Former Indian Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the WTO in Geneva:

“The first will arrest the continuing erosion of the non-discrimination principle. The second will thwart the trend towards unequal rules being incorporated into RTAs. Together, they will reinforce the centrality of the WTO in the global trading system. The prolonged standoff over “new” market access, by preventing the WTO from fulfilling these objectives, is causing serious damage to the global trading system. The solution to the WTO’s problems, therefore, lies not in decoupling the WTO from the Doha Round, but in enabling it to achieve an ambitious Doha outcome based on its development mandate.

There are a number of factors that lend credence to the view that the support and leadership of the US and EU for the multilateral process is diminishing. First, both continue to be preoccupied with the management of the aftermath of the financial and economic crisis. Second, the political dynamic in the WTO has shifted towards greater equality of voice among members and it has become difficult for the erstwhile leaders to have a decisive say in moulding outcomes. The increasing focus of the US and the EU on RTAs is a response to this development. The ACTA negotiations (anti-counterfeiting trade agreement) are another manifestation of this response.”