New focus needed for Doha Round; Trade talks failed to address developing country problems

Original Publication Date: 
5 August, 2006

Rome, 8 August 2006 - "The Doha Round of international trade negotiations collapsed mainly because of a fight for advantage in agricultural markets by large and powerful countries, corporations and lobbies," FAO said today.

The approach adopted in the talks was flawed from the outset, FAO said. It failed to take sufficient account of the interests of developing countries and focussed on "free trade, rather than fair trade."

Doha round lacked fairness in its vision

The negotiations were expected to address trade issues related to the needs of poor countries and small farmers. "But they never quite got round to these issues and as a result the Doha Round collapsed because of a fundamental lack of fairness in its vision, its process and its projected outcomes," FAO said.

The negotiations focussed on the problem of high levels of budgetary support and import protection in several developed countries. One of the three largest agricultural subsidizers would not cut its agricultural subsidies to a level acceptable to the others, and another of the three would not reduce its agricultural tariffs by an acceptable amount.

LDCs gained very little from past trade agreements

Developed countries were demanding that developing countries open their markets in order to agree to better terms for their exports.

Another factor in the failure of the talks was that developing countries had little to gain from an agreement centred on concerns of the large developed countries. "The Doha Round's focus was largely irrelevant to the least developed countries, who have seen almost no gains from past WTO agricultural trade agreements," FAO's statement said.

"While agricultural subsidy cuts and lower tariffs by the developed countries are in the interest of developing countries, they have to be implemented in a framework that increases the income of their small farmers and improves their food security," FAO said.

More participatory approach needed in trade talks

However, there were both lessons to be learned and opportunities to be seized, FAO concluded. "When negotiations restart, the Doha Round should truly be a Development Round approached in a broader and participatory way. On the one hand, it should address domestic subsidies and market access issues in order that they do not undermine development, on the other, it should deal seriously with questions related to supply-side capacity and related investment needs for the least developed countries to benefit from market opportunities resulting from a fair trade." Present competition is between corporations using modern technologies and small farmers without adequate water control and basic rural infrastructure," FAO continued.

FAO will work with its partners to ensure that the consensus on "Aid for trade" and the proposals made to achieve concrete results in the development dimension of the Doha Round are not lost to the principle "Nothing is agreed unless everything is agreed."