The 2015 Nairobi WTO Ministerial unshackled governments from the deadlocked Doha Development Agenda and opened the door for new issues and new approaches. The Ministerial Declaration calls on new initiatives to be agreed by consensus. This column argues that WTO procedures permit ‘clubs’ of countries to agree on additional policy disciplines if the benefits extend on a non-discriminatory basis to all WTO members. Consensus is not needed for such clubs.
Bernard Hoekman, Petros Mavroidis, 03 February 2016
Chad Bown, 23 December 2015
With the Doha Round finally out of the way, WTO members must decide how to proceed with unfinished business and new issues. This column argues for re-thinking the WTO approach to tariff cutting based on insights drawn from recent research. The next time around, deals may be more likely to be struck if emerging economies negotiate tariff cuts among themselves, reciprocally – as the original GATT members did in 1947.
Gary Hufbauer, 21 December 2015
The WTO members struck a deal in Nairobi at their Ministerial Conference that many have found hard to understand. Leading up to the conference, there was widespread agreement that the WTO’s multilateral negotiations – known as the Doha Development Agenda – should be finished or finished off, as they had dragged on too long already (since 2001). This column, by one of the world’s most seasoned trade policy experts, argues that the Nairobi Declaration finished off Doha for good, but it also finished several important elements of the original agenda. Both developed and developing nations won important gains.
Kent Jones, 30 November 2015
WTO members have somehow found it extremely difficult, in the 21st century, to reach a comprehensive multilateral agreement to expand mutual gains from trade. This column argues that success in expanding global trade will depend on major trading countries’ willingness to seek new institutional paths to multilateral agreements, through new negotiating modalities, openness to the expansion of regional agreements to new members, and in establishing reciprocity expectations for members according to their development status.
Andrew Stoler, 08 October 2014
No progress has been made on the agriculture talks of the Doha Round since 2008. This column argues that the reason for the impasse is the approach to negotiations – in which all members are expected to participate. The author proposes a critical-mass approach to negotiations as an alternative, in which a subset of member countries can conclude a deal among themselves. The projected welfare gains from such an approach are substantial. The only obstacle is that its implementation could be politically unfeasible.
Jeffrey Frankel, 09 September 2014
Subsidies for food and energy are economically inefficient, but can often be politically popular. This column discusses the efforts by new leaders in Egypt, Indonesia, and India to cut unaffordable subsidies. Cutting subsidies now may even be the politically savvy choice if the alternative is shortages and an even more painful rise in the retail price in future. Ironically, it is India’s new Prime Minister Modi – elected with a large electoral mandate and much hype about market reforms – who is already shrinking from the challenge.
Hector Torres, 21 September 2013
'Special and differential treatment' was justified on the basis that developing countries lacked the fiscal resources to smooth the transition to free trade. However, despite improved fiscal circumstances, exceptions to WTO rules remain in place. Establishing an independent watchdog for the WTO could help it to address these issues.
Pascal Lamy, 29 July 2013
After heading the WTO for eight years, Pascal Lamy offers his farewell remarks. This column reproduces them in full. Despite global turmoil including the Great Trade Collapse and an historic shift of economic power towards emerging markets, the WTO is larger and stronger. Regional trade arrangements can contribute trade opening but they are not sufficient. There is no escape from achieving positive results in the Doha Round, but this requires adjusting the agenda to today's realities by adding new elements.
Gary Hufbauer, Jeffrey Schott , Cathleen Cimino, 07 July 2013
In the wake of the Great Recession, world trade has faltered. Responsible officials turned a blind eye to fresh liberalisation and condoned a quiet resurgence of protectionist measures. This column argues that the global economy needs strong medicine to rebound, and that successful WTO trade talks are part of the elixir.
Patrick Messerlin, 29 July 2012
Should we give up on the Doha Round and leave the WTO standing still? This column argues that such stalemate is dangerous – the WTO needs to be kept busy.
Christoph Moser, Andrew Rose, 08 June 2012
Why do trade negotiations take so long? The WTO’s Doha Round is into its 11th year and still far from completed. This column uses data on regional trade agreements to identify the determinants of how long it takes to conclude regional trade agreements. The findings are not good news for the chances of the Doha Round ending any time soon.
John Weekes, 23 November 2011
Next month the World Trade Organisation holds its eighth ministerial conference. This column by a veteran of trade negotiations sets the scene – documenting the WTO’s achievements and the challenges ahead.
Aaditya Mattoo, Will Martin, 08 November 2011
A recent G20 communiqué on the Doha Development Agenda has got economists excited. According to a new book introduced in this column, negotiators now have an opportunity to critically assess what is on the table and to develop a more relevant agenda and more effective ways of achieving reforms. The book aims to provide empirical evidence to inform the choices ahead.
Aaditya Mattoo, Will Martin, 08 November 2011
The Doha Development Agenda (DDA) is in limbo and negotiators face a difficult “trilemma”: to implement all or part of the draft agreements as they stand today; to modify them substantially; or to dump Doha and start afresh. At this critical juncture, this CEPR/World Bank volume aims to provide a better empirical basis for informed choices.
Jean-Pierre Chauffour, Jean-Christophe Maur, 28 July 2011
With the Doha Round of multilateral negotiations stuck in a rut, this column argues that preferential trade agreements may provide the necessary versatility to navigate the next frontier of trade liberalisation.
Nadia Rocha, Robert Teh, 21 July 2011
Preferential trade agreements are now a prominent feature of the global trading system. This column introduces the WTO's new World Trade Report that explores why deep regionalism is gaining momentum. It also proposes a number of options for increasing coherence between such agreements and the multilateral trading system.
Ujal Singh Bhatia, 25 June 2011
If the doomed Doha Round threatens the existence of the WTO itself, can the two be separated? Several economists have argued that they should. This column looks at whether this is actually possible.
Richard Baldwin, Simon Evenett, 28 May 2011
The Doha Round poses a dilemma for world leaders; the talks cannot be completed this year, but there is no agreement among WTO members on either suspending or killing the Round. This column introduces the latest VoxEU eBook, which gathers the thoughts of some of the world’s most experienced trade negotiators on what comes next. Indonesia's trade minister and former WTO Ambassadors from the US, China, India, Canada and Hong Kong each provide a plan for getting past the Doha crisis.
Mari Pangestu, 28 May 2011
Doha is stalled by gaps that are unbridgeable today. Indonesia’s Trade Minister argues that we need to be guided by priorities and pragmatism. We should develop a set of stepping stones that will help us complete the Doha Round eventually. We should identify the areas that are achievable in the very near future but which have an impact on development while building confidence for the continued journey to a successful Round. We should never lose sight of the final goal – completing the Doha Round as a single undertaking. In short, we are not looking for a “Plan B”; we are looking for a new way to execute Plan A.
Tim Josling, 28 May 2011
Concluding the Doha Round of trade negotiations this year appears to be impossible, according to most commentators. This column argues, however, that there are still some things to be salvaged, particularly regarding agricultural trade.