UNDERSTANDING THE WTO: Doha Development Agenda
Doha Development Agenda
The Doha Development Agenda, also known as the Doha Round, was formally launched in November 2001. The work programme of the agenda listed 21 subjects for negotiation. WTO members concluded an agreement on trade facilitation in 2013 but negotiations on many other agenda items remain open.
More introductory information
At the Fourth Ministerial Conference in Doha, Qatar, in November 2001 WTO member governments agreed to launch new negotiations. They also agreed to work on other issues, in particular the implementation of the present agreements. The entire package is called the Doha Development Agenda (DDA).
The negotiations take place in the Trade Negotiations Committee and its subsidiaries, which are usually, either regular councils and committees meeting in “special sessions”, or specially-created negotiating groups. Other work under the work programme takes place in other WTO councils and committees. As with previous trade rounds, the negotiations were launched as a “single undertaking,” meaning that talks on all subjects are to be concluded as one package.
While progress was achieved across a broad range of issues, WTO members missed several official and unofficial deadlines for concluding the Doha Round. Members later agreed to pursue negotiations on trade facilitation separately, and at their Ninth Ministerial Conference in Bali, Indonesia in 2013 WTO members concluded the Trade Facilitation Agreement.
At their Tenth Ministerial Conference in Nairobi, Kenya in 2015, WTO members acknowledged that while many members wanted to continue the Doha negotiations based on the existing mandates, other members were not ready to reaffirm the mandates and believed new approaches were necessary to achieve meaningful outcomes. Nevertheless, they agreed a strong commitment remained among all members to advance negotiations on the remaining Doha issues.
There are 19-21 subjects listed in the Doha Declaration, depending on whether to count the “rules” subjects as one or three. Most of them involve negotiations; other work includes actions under “implementation”, analysis and monitoring. This is an unofficial explanation of what the declaration mandates (listed with the declaration’s paragraphs that refer to them):
Implementation-related issues and concerns (par 12)
“Implementation” is short-hand for developing countries’ problems in implementing the current WTO Agreements, i.e. the agreements arising from the Uruguay Round negotiations.
No area of WTO work received more attention or generated more controversy during nearly three years of hard bargaining before the Doha Ministerial Conference. Around 100 issues were raised during that period. The result was a two-pronged approach:
- More than 40 items under 12 headings were settled at or before the Doha conference, for immediate delivery.
- The vast majority of the remaining items immediately became the subject of negotiations.
This was spelt out in a separate ministerial decision on implementation, combined with paragraph 12 of the main Doha Declaration.
The implementation decision includes the following:
General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)
- Balance-of-payments exception: clarifying less stringent conditions in GATT for developing countries if they restrict imports in order to protect their balance-of-payments.
- Market-access commitments: clarifying eligibility to negotiate or be consulted on quota allocation.
- Rural development and food security for developing countries
- Least-developed and net food-importing developing countries
- Export credits, export credit guarantees or insurance programmes
- Tariff rate quotas
Sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures
- More time for developing countries to comply with other countries’ new SPS measures
- “Reasonable interval” between publication of a country’s new SPS measure and its entry into force
- Equivalence: putting into practice the principle that governments should accept that different measures used by other governments can be equivalent to their own measures for providing the same level of health protection for food, animals and plants.
- Review of the SPS Agreement
- Developing countries’ participation in setting international SPS standards
- Financial and technical assistance
Textiles and clothing back to top
- “Effective” use of the agreement’s provisions on early integration of products into normal GATT rules, and elimination of quotas.
- Restraint in anti-dumping actions.
- The possibility of examining governments’ new rules of origin.
- Members to consider favourable quota treatment for small suppliers and least-developed countries, and larger quotas in general.
Technical barriers to trade back to top
- Technical assistance for least-developed countries, and reviews of technical assistance in general.
- When possible, a six-month “reasonable interval” for developing countries to adapt to new measures.
- The WTO director-general encouraged to continue efforts to help developing countries participate in setting international standards.
Trade-related investment measures (TRIMs) back to top
- The Goods Council is “to consider positively” requests from least-developed countries to extend the seven-year transition period for eliminating measures that are inconsistent with the agreement.
Anti-dumping (GATT Article 6) back to top
- No second anti-dumping investigation within a year unless circumstances have changed.
- How to put into operation a special provision for developing countries (Article 15 of the Anti-Dumping Agreement), which recognizes that developed countries must give “special regard” to the situation of developing countries when considering applying anti-dumping measures.
- Clarification sought on the time period for determining whether the volume of dumped imported products is negligible, and therefore no anti-dumping action should be taken.
- Annual reviews of the agreement’s implementation to be improved.
Customs valuation (GATT Article 7) back to top
- Extending the deadline for developing countries to implement the agreement
- Dealing with fraud: how to cooperate in exchanging information, including on export values
Rules of origin back to top
- Completing the harmonization of rules of origin among member governments
- Dealing with interim arrangements in the transition to the new, harmonized rules of origin.
Subsidies and countervailing measures back to top
- Sorting out how to determine whether some developing countries meet the test of being below US$1,000 per capita GNP allowing them to pay subsidies that require the recipient to export.
- Noting proposed new rules allowing developing countries to subsidize under programmes that have “legitimate development goals” without having to face countervailing or other action.
- Review of provisions on countervailing duty investigations.
- Reaffirming that least-developed countries are exempt from the ban on export subsidies.
- Directing the Subsidies Committee to extend the transition period for certain developing countries.
Trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights (TRIPS) back to top
- “Non-violation” complaints: the unresolved question of how to deal with possible TRIPS disputes involving loss of an expected benefit even if the TRIPS Agreement has not actually been violated.
- Technology transfer to least-developed countries
Cross-cutting issues back to top
- Which special and differential treatment provisions are mandatory? What are the implications of making mandatory those that are currently non-binding?
- How can special and differential treatment provisions be made more effective?
- How can special and differential treatment be incorporated in the new negotiations?
- Developed countries are urged to grant preferences in a generalized and non-discriminatory manner, i.e. to all developing countries rather than to a selected group.
Outstanding implementation issues back to top
- To be handled under paragraph 12 of the main Doha Declaration.
Final provisions back to top
- The WTO Director-General is to ensure that WTO technical assistance gives priority to helping developing countries implement existing WTO obligations, and to increase their capacity to participate more effectively in future negotiations.
- The WTO Secretariat is to cooperate more closely with other international organizations so that technical assistance is more efficient and effective.
The implementation decision is tied into the main Doha Declaration, where ministers agreed on a future work programme to deal with unsettled implementation questions. “Negotiations on outstanding implementation issues shall be an integral part of the Work Programme” in the coming years, they declared.
In the declaration, the ministers established a two-track approach. Those issues for which there was an agreed negotiating mandate in the declaration would be dealt with under the terms of that mandate.
Those implementation issues where there is no mandate to negotiate, would be taken up as “a matter of priority” by relevant WTO councils and committees.
Agriculture (par 13, 14) back to top
Negotiations on agriculture began in early 2000, under Article 20 of the WTO Agriculture Agreement. By November 2001 and the Doha Ministerial Conference, 121 governments had submitted a large number of negotiating proposals.
The Doha Declaration built on the work already undertaken, confirmed and elaborated the objectives, and integrated agriculture into the single undertaking.
The declaration reconfirms the long-term objective already agreed in the present WTO Agreement: to establish a fair and market-oriented trading system through a programme of fundamental reform. The programme encompasses strengthened rules, and specific commitments on government support and protection for agriculture. The purpose is to correct and prevent restrictions and distortions in world agricultural markets.
Without prejudging the outcome, member governments commit themselves to comprehensive negotiations aimed at:
- market access: substantial reductions
- exports subsidies: reductions of, with a view to phasing out, all forms of these (in the 1 August 2004 “framework” members agreed to eliminate export subsidies by a date to be negotiated)
- domestic support: substantial reductions for supports that distort trade (in the 1 August 2004 “framework”, developed countries pledged to slash trade-distorting domestic subsidies by 20% from the first day any Doha Agenda agreement is implemented.
The declaration makes special and differential treatment for developing countries integral throughout the negotiations, both in countries’ new commitments and in any relevant new or revised rules and disciplines. It says the outcome should be effective in practice and should enable developing countries to meet their needs, in particular in food security and rural development.
The ministers also take note of the non-trade concerns (such as environmental protection, food security, rural development, etc) reflected in the negotiating proposals already submitted. They confirm that the negotiations will take these into account, as provided for in the Agriculture Agreement.
The negotiations take place in “special sessions” of the Agriculture Committee.
At the 2015 Nairobi Ministerial Conference, WTO members agreed on a historic decision to eliminate agricultural export subsidies, the most important reform of international trade rules in agriculture since the WTO was established.
Services (par 15)back to top
Negotiations on services were already almost two years old when they were incorporated into the new Doha agenda.
The WTO General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) commited members to undertake negotiations on specific issues and to enter into successive rounds of negotiations to progressively liberalize trade in services. The first round was to start no later than five years from 1995.
Accordingly, the services negotiations started officially in early 2000 under the Council for Trade in Services. In March 2001, the Services Council fulfilled a key element in the negotiating mandate by establishing the negotiating guidelines and procedures.
The Doha Declaration endorsed the work already done, reaffirmed the negotiating guidelines and procedures, and established some key elements such as concluding the negotiations as part of a single undertaking.
The negotiations take place in “special sessions” of the Services Council and regular meetings of its relevant subsidiary committees or working parties.
Market access for non-agricultural products (par 16) back to top
The ministers agreed to launch tariff-cutting negotiations on all non-agricultural products. The aim is “to reduce, or as appropriate eliminate tariffs, including the reduction or elimination of tariff peaks, high tariffs, and tariff escalation, as well as non-tariff barriers, in particular on products of export interest to developing countries”. These negotiations shall take fully into account the special needs and interests of developing and least-developed countries, and recognize that these countries do not need to match or reciprocate in full tariff-reduction commitments by other participants.
While average customs duties are now at their lowest levels after eight GATT Rounds, certain tariffs continue to restrict trade, especially on exports of developing countries — for instance “tariff peaks”, which are relatively high tariffs, usually on “sensitive” products, amidst generally low tariff levels. For industrialized countries, tariffs of 15% and above are generally recognized as “tariff peaks”.
Another example is “tariff escalation”, in which higher import duties are applied on semi-processed products than on raw materials, and higher still on finished products. This practice protects domestic processing industries and discourages the development of processing activity in the countries where raw materials originate.
The negotiations take place in a Market Access Negotiating Group.
Trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights (TRIPS) (pars 17-19)back to top
TRIPS and public health. In the declaration, ministers stress that it is important to implement and interpret the TRIPS Agreement in a way that supports public health — by promoting both access to existing medicines and the creation of new medicines. They refer to their separate declaration on this subject.
This separate declaration on TRIPS and public health is designed to respond to concerns about the possible implications of the TRIPS Agreement for access to medicines.
It emphasizes that the TRIPS Agreement does not and should not prevent member governments from acting to protect public health. It affirms governments’ right to use the agreement’s flexibilities in order to avoid any reticence the governments may feel.
The separate declaration clarifies some of the forms of flexibility available, in particular compulsory licensing and parallel importing. (For an explanation of these issues, go to the main TRIPS pages on the WTO website)
For the Doha agenda, this separate declaration set the specific task of finding a solution to the problems countries may face in making use of compulsory licensing if they have too little or no pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity. This was achieved in August, 2003 in the form of a waiver to the relevant patent rules under the TRIPS Agreement. On 6 December 2005, WTO members approved changes to the WTO’s intellectual property (TRIPS) agreement to make permanent the decision on patents and public health. The amendment was formally built into the TRIPS Agreement on 23 January 2017 after two thirds of the WTO’s members accepted the protocol amending the TRIPS Agreement.
Geographical indications — the registration system. Geographical indications are place names (in some countries also words associated with a place) used to identify products with particular characteristics because they come from specific places. The WTO TRIPS Council has already started work on a multilateral registration system for geographical indications for wines and spirits. These negotiations take place in “special sessions” of the TRIPS Council.
Geographical indications — extending the “higher level of protection” to other products. The TRIPS Agreement provides a higher level of protection to geographical indications for wines and spirits. This means they should be protected even if there is no risk of misleading consumers or unfair competition. A number of countries want to negotiate extending this higher level to other products. Others oppose the move, and the debate in the TRIPS Council has included the question of whether the relevant provisions of the TRIPS Agreement provide a mandate for extending coverage beyond wines and spirits.
The Doha Declaration notes that the TRIPS Council will handle this under the declaration’s paragraph 12 (which deals with implementation issues). Paragraph 12 offers two tracks: “(a) where we provide a specific negotiating mandate in this Declaration, the relevant implementation issues shall be addressed under that mandate; (b) the other outstanding implementation issues shall be addressed as a matter of priority by the relevant WTO bodies, which shall report to the Trade Negotiations Committee [TNC], established under paragraph 46 below, by the end of 2002 for appropriate action.”
In papers circulated at the Ministerial Conference, member governments expressed different interpretations of this mandate.
Reviews of TRIPS provisions. Two reviews had been taking place in the TRIPS Council, as required by the TRIPS Agreement: a review of Article 27.3(b) which deals with patentability or non-patentability of plant and animal inventions, and the protection of plant varieties; and a review of the entire TRIPS Agreement (required by Article 71.1).
The Doha Declaration says that work in the TRIPS Council on these reviews or any other implementation issue should also look at: the relationship between the TRIPS Agreement and the UN Convention on Biodiversity; the protection of traditional knowledge and folklore; and other relevant new developments that member governments raise in the review of the TRIPS Agreement. It adds that the TRIPS Council’s work on these topics is to be guided by the TRIPS Agreement’s objectives (Article 7) and principles (Article 8), and must take development fully into account.
For trade and investment, trade and competition policy, transparency in government procurement and trade facilitation, the 2001 Doha declaration did not launch negotiations immediately. Consensus eluded members on negotiating the four subjects. Finally agreement was reached on 1 August 2004 to negotiate trade facilitation alone. The three other subjects were dropped from the Doha agenda.
Relationship between trade and investment (pars 20-22) back to top
This was a “Singapore issue” i.e. a working group was set up by the 1996 Singapore Ministerial Conference to study it.
In the period up to the 2003 Ministerial Conference, the declaration instructed the working group to focus on clarifying the scope and definition of the issues, transparency, non-discrimination, ways of preparing negotiated commitments, development provisions, exceptions and balance-of-payments safeguards, consultation and dispute settlement. The negotiated commitments were to be modelled on those made in services, which specify where commitments are being made — “positive lists” — rather than making broad commitments and listing exceptions.
The declaration also spelled out a number of principles such as the need to balance the interests of countries where foreign investment originates and where it is invested, countries’ right to regulate investment, development, public interest and individual countries’ specific circumstances. It also emphasized support and technical cooperation for developing and least-developed countries, and coordination with other international organizations such as the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
Since the 1 August 2004 decision, this subject has been dropped from the Doha agenda.
Interaction between trade and competition policy (pars 23-25) back to top
This is another “Singapore issue”, with a working group set up in 1996 to study the subject.
In the period up to the 2003 Ministerial Conference, the declaration instructed the working group to focus on clarifying:
- core principles including transparency, non-discrimination and procedural fairness, and provisions on “hardcore” cartels (i.e. cartels that are formally set up)
- ways of handling voluntary cooperation on competition policy among WTO member governments
- support for progressive reinforcement of competition institutions in developing countries through capacity building
The declaration said the work must take full account of developmental needs. It includes technical cooperation and capacity building, on such topics as policy analysis and development, so that developing countries are better placed to evaluate the implications of closer multilateral cooperation for various developmental objectives. Cooperation with other organizations such as the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) is also included.
Since the 1 August 2004 decision, this subject has been dropped from the Doha agenda.
Transparency in government procurement (par 26) back to top
A third “Singapore issue” that was handled by a working group set up by the Singapore Ministerial Conference in 1996.
The Doha Declaration said that the “negotiations shall be limited to the transparency aspects and therefore will not restrict the scope for countries to give preferences to domestic supplies and suppliers” — it is separate from the plurilateral Government Procurement Agreement.
The declaration also stresses development concerns, technical assistance and capacity building.
Since the 1 August 2004 decision, this subject has been dropped from the Doha agenda.
Trade facilitation (par 27) back to top
The WTO’s engagement in trade facilitation began at the Singapore Ministerial Conference in December 1996, when WTO members directed the Council for Trade in Goods “to undertake exploratory and analytical work . . . on the simplification of trade procedures in order to assess the scope for WTO rules in this area."
The negotiations on trade facilitation were successfully concluded at the Bali Ministerial Conference in December 2013, with the new Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) entering into force on 22 February 2017.
Developed countries committed to immediately implement the Agreement upon its entry into force. Developing countries, meanwhile, will only apply those substantive provisions of the TFA which they have indicated they are in a position to do so from the date of the TFA’s entry into force. Least-developed countries were given an additional year to do so. These commitments are set out in the submitted Category A notifications.
By easing the time and costs burdens needed to import and export, the TFA is expected to increase exports from existing traders while also enabling new firms to export for the first time. Furthermore, the TFA is forecast to add up to 2.7% a year to world export growth and more than 0.5% a year to world GDP growth over the 2015-30 horizon, with developing countries enjoying the most gains.
A Committee on Trade Facilitation was established to periodically review the Agreement’s operation and implementation.
- More on trade facilitation and the TFA
- Statement: chairman's understanding of the mandate
- More on trade facilitation
WTO rules: anti-dumping and subsidies (par 28) back to top
The ministers agreed to negotiations on the Anti-Dumping (GATT Article 6) and Subsidies agreements. The aim is to clarify and improve disciplines while preserving the basic, concepts, principles of these agreements, and taking into account the needs of developing and least-developed participants.
In overlapping negotiating phases, participants first indicated which provisions of these two agreements they think should be the subject of clarification and improvement in the next phase of negotiations. The ministers mention specifically fisheries subsidies as one sector important to developing countries and where participants should aim to clarify and improve WTO disciplines.
Negotiations take place in the Rules Negotiating Group.
The mandate for WTO negotiations on fisheries subsidies was elaborated in 2005 at the Hong Kong Ministerial Conference, including with a call for prohibiting certain forms of fisheries subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing.
At the 2017 Buenos Aires Ministerial Conference (MC11), ministers decided on a work programme to conclude the negotiations by aiming to adopt, at the next Ministerial Conference, an agreement on fisheries subsidies which delivers on Sustainable Development Goal 14.6
WTO rules: regional trade agreements (par 29) back to top
WTO rules say regional trade agreements have to meet certain conditions. But interpreting the wording of these rules has proved controversial, and has been a central element in the work of the Regional Trade Agreements Committee. As a result, since 1995 the committee has failed to complete its assessments of whether individual trade agreements conform with WTO provisions.
This is now an important challenge, particularly when nearly all member governments are parties to regional agreements, are negotiating them, or are considering negotiating them. In the Doha Declaration, members agreed to negotiate a solution, giving due regard to the role that these agreements can play in fostering development.
The declaration mandates negotiations aimed at “clarifying and improving disciplines and procedures under the existing WTO provisions applying to regional trade agreements. The negotiations shall take into account the developmental aspects of regional trade agreements.”
Negotiations take place in the Rules Negotiating Group.
Dispute Settlement Understanding (par 30) back to top
The 1994 Marrakesh Ministerial Conference mandated WTO member governments to conduct a review of the Dispute Settlement Understanding (DSU, the WTO agreement on dispute settlement) within four years of the entry into force of the WTO Agreement (i.e. by 1 January 1999).
The Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) started the review in late 1997, and held a series of informal discussions on the basis of proposals and issues that members identified. Many, if not all, members felt that improvements should be made to the understanding. However, the DSB could not reach a consensus on the results of the review.
The Doha Declaration mandates negotiations and states (in par 47) that these will not be part of the single undertaking — i.e. that they will not be tied to the overall success or failure of the other negotiations mandated by the declaration. Originally set to conclude by May 2003, the negotiations are continuing without a deadline.
Negotiations take place in “special sessions” of the Dispute Settlement Body.
Trade and environment (pars 31-33) back to top
Ministers agreed at the Fourth WTO Ministerial Conference in Doha, Qatar to hold negotiations on trade and the environment, the overarching objective of which is to enhance how trade and environmental policies support each other.
The negotiations focus on three main themes:
- Multilateral environmental agreements. These negotiations address how WTO rules are to apply to WTO members that are parties to environmental agreements, in particular to clarify the relationship between trade measures taken under the environmental agreements and WTO rules. Read further here.
- Collaboration and information exchange. In addition to looking at the relationship between specific trade obligations in the environmental agreements and WTO rules, the negotiations have covered procedures for MEA secretariats and relevant WTO committees to exchange information regularly. The issue of criteria for the granting of observer status to MEA Secretariats is also part of the negotiations. Various forms of cooperation and information exchange between WTO and MEA secretariats are already in place (see document TN/TE/S/2/Rev.2).
- Trade barriers on environmental goods and services. Ministers also agreed to negotiations on the reduction or elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers to environmental goods and services. Examples of environmental goods and services are catalytic converters, air filters or consultancy services on wastewater management. Read further here.
- Negotiations on these issues, including concepts of what are the relevant environmental goods and services, take place in “special sessions” of the Trade and Environment Committee. Negotiations on market access for environmental goods and services take place in the Market Access Negotiating Group and Services Council “special sessions”. Recent communications include broadening market access discussions on environmental services and applying countervailing duties to members who fail to respect "fundamental" environmental standards.
- Ministers also agreed to clarify and improve WTO rules that apply to fisheries subsidies. The issue of fisheries subsidies has been studied in the Trade and Environment Committee for several years. Some studies demonstrate these subsidies can be environmentally damaging if they lead to too many fishers chasing too few fish. Negotiations on fisheries subsidies take place in the Negotiating Group on Rules. Read further here.
Electronic commerce (par 34) back to top
The Doha Declaration endorses the work already done on electronic commerce and instructs the General Council to consider the most appropriate institutional arrangements for handling the work programme, and to report on further progress to the Fifth Ministerial Conference.
The declaration on electronic commerce from the Second Ministerial Conference in Geneva, 1998, said that WTO members will continue their practice of not imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions. The Doha Declaration states that members will continue this practice until the Fifth Ministerial Conference.
Ministers have considered the Work Programme on Electronic Commerce and the issue of customs duties at nearly all ministerial conferences.
Small economies (par 35) back to top
Small economies face specific challenges in their participation in world trade, for example lack of economy of scale or limited natural resources.
The Doha Declaration mandates the General Council to examine these problems and to make recommendations to the next Ministerial Conference as to what trade-related measures could improve the integration of small economies.
Since the launch of the Doha Round, a number of additional Ministerial or General Council decisions regarding the work programme on small economies have been taken. These include the decisions taken in Geneva in August 2004 (WT/L/579 para 1.D), Hong Kong in 2005 ( WT/MIN(05)/DEC para 41) , Geneva in 2009 (WT/COMTD/SE/6) and 2011 (WT/L/844), Bali in 2013 (WT/MIN(13)/33 - WT/L/908), Nairobi in 2015 (WT/MIN(15)/40 — WT/L/975) and Buenos Aires in 2017 (WT/MIN(17)/63- WT/L/1030).
Trade, debt and finance (par 36) back to top
Many developing countries face serious external debt problems and have been through financial crises. WTO ministers decided in Doha to establish a Working Group on Trade, Debt and Finance to look at how trade-related measures can contribute to find a durable solution to these problems.
The Working Group has been focusing on a range of financial issues with an impact on trade, including the provision of trade finance and the relationship between exchange rates and trade.
Trade and technology transfer (par 37) back to top
A number of provisions in the WTO agreements mention the need for a transfer of technology to take place between developed and developing countries.
However, it is not clear how such a transfer takes place in practice and if specific measures might be taken within the WTO to encourage such flows of technology.
WTO ministers decided in Doha to establish a working group to examine the issue.
Technical cooperation and capacity building (pars 38-41) back to top
Through various paragraphs of the Doha Declaration, WTO member governments have made new commitments on technical cooperation and capacity building.
For example, the section on the relationship between trade and investment includes a call (par 21) for enhanced support for technical assistance and capacity building in this area.
Within the specific heading “technical cooperation and capacity building”, paragraph 41 lists all the references to commitments on technical cooperation within the Doha Declaration: paragraphs 16 (market access for non-agricultural products), 21 (trade and investment), 24 (trade and competition policy), 26 (transparency in government procurement), 27 (trade facilitation), 33 (environment), 38-40 (technical cooperation and capacity building), 42 and 43 (least-developed countries). (Paragraph 2 in the preamble is also cited.)
Under this heading (i.e. pars 38-41), WTO member governments reaffirm all technical cooperation and capacity building commitments made throughout the declaration and add general commitments:
- The Secretariat, in coordination with other relevant agencies, is to encourage WTO developing-country members to consider trade as a main element for reducing poverty and to include trade measures in their development strategies.
- The agenda set out in the Doha Declaration gives priority to small, vulnerable, and transition economies, as well as to members and observers that do not have permanent delegations in Geneva.
- Technical assistance must be delivered by the WTO and other relevant international organizations within a coherent policy framework.
Following the declaration’s instructions to develop a plan ensuring long-term funding for WTO technical assistance, the General Council adopted on 20 December 2001 (one month after the Doha conference) a new budget that increased technical assistance funding by 80% and established a Doha Development Agenda Global Trust Fund. The fund now has an annual budget of 5 million Swiss francs.
Least-developed countries (pars 42, 43) back to top
Many developed countries have now significantly decreased or actually scrapped tariffs on imports from least-developed countries (LDCs).
In the Doha declaration, WTO member governments commit themselves to the objective of duty-free, quota-free market access for LDCs’ products and to consider additional measures to improve market access for these exports.
Members also agree to try to ensure that least-developed countries can negotiate WTO membership faster and more easily.
Some technical assistance is targeted specifically for least-developed countries. The Doha Declaration urges WTO member donors to significantly increase their contributions.
In addition, the Sub-Committee for LDCs (a subsidiary body of the WTO Committee on Trade and Development) is mandated to look at systemic issues of interest to LDCs in the multilateral trading system and implements the WTO Work Programme for the LDCs, focusing in particular on market access, technical assistance and WTO accessions.
Special and differential treatment (par 44) back to top
The WTO agreements contain special provisions which give developing countries special rights. These special provisions include, for example, longer time periods for implementing agreements and commitments or measures to increase trading opportunities for developing countries.
In the Doha Declaration, member governments agree that all special and differential treatment provisions should be reviewed with a view to strengthening them and making them more precise.
More specifically, the declaration (together with the Decision on Implementation-Related Issues and Concerns) mandates the Trade and Development Committee to identify which of those special and differential treatment provisions are mandatory, and to consider the implications of making mandatory those which are currently non-binding.
Differences among WTO members include the definition of who exactly should benefit from special and differential treatment (S&D). The special session of the Committee on Trade and Development is mandated to review all S&D provisions, with a view to making them more precise, effective and operational.