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QATAR: WTO Still Harmful to Developing Countries

by Walden Bello and Aileen KwaFocus on the Global South (Bangkok, Thailand)
November 14th, 2001

The revised draft ministerial declaration issued in the afternoon of November 13 continues to highly detrimental to the interests of developing countries.

The new text, as many have already pointed out, continues to relegated to the margins the developing countries' demand that implementation issues should serve as the core work agenda of the WTO in the next few years. This text affirms the loud complaints in Doha by developing country representatives that their voice no longer counts in the WTO.

Likewise the text continues to place at centre stage the developed countries' desire to initiate a process that would lead to negotiations on the so-called "new issues" of investment, competition policy, government procurement, and trade facilitation. The text explicitly calls for the immediate initiation of negotiations on government procurement and on trade facilitation. While there appears to be some dilution in the language on investment and competition policy, in fact the text sets in motion activities by the working groups on investment and competition policy that are calculated to give momentum to the adoption of a decision to launch negotiations in these areas during the Fifth Session of the Ministerial.

The revised text also ignores the proposal for a "development box" to be added to the Agreement on Agriculture that many developing countries have pushed for in Doha to promote food security and development.

Focus further notes with disapproval the revised text's dropping of the phrase that the ILO is the "appropriate forum" for dialogue on trade and labor issues. The new formulation leaves the door open for the WTO to expand its jurisdiction to an area where it does not belong.

It is alleged that the compromise language relating to countries' concern about public health is a step forward, but as some observers have pointed out, the so-called compromise will still leave unchanged the language of the TRIPs agreement, and this will serve as the basis for future legal challenges to countries that override patents for public health purposes.

In sum, there are minimal changes to this version of the ministerial declaration. Its adoption will constitute a setback for developing countries in the WTO.

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