Trade officials meeting in Geneva indicated they see little chance that World Trade Organization (WTO) members will reach an agreement on a “deliverables” package for the December ministerial conference. The deliverables package — also referred to as “Doha Lite” — is intended to rebuild confidence in the Doha round. The goal is to conclude an agreement that can be adopted at the WTO's Dec. 15-17 ministerial conference in Geneva.
David Shark, US deputy ambassador to the WTO, said efforts among key WTO members to construct a “deliverables package” are failing. WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy will now have to decide what to do because a growing number of WTO members believe the idea of a deliverables package should be dropped. Lamy is due to meet with key WTO members on July 25 to discuss options for moving forward before briefing the WTO membership as a whole on July 26.
WTO members generally agree that a deliverables package should focus on issues of interest to least developed countries (LDCs) but have been unable to agree on a package. Negotiators have been discussing a package that includes duty-free/quota free (DFQF) market access for LDC exports, a waiver from any market access commitments under a future Doha Round services agreement, and a “step forward” on addressing cotton subsidies.
However, key members are divided on what should be covered in the talks. The cotton issue reportedly has been one of the most divisive. The United States argues that any agreement on reducing cotton subsidies must include commitments by China and also must address other trade-distorting policies, most notably China's 40 percent import tariff on cotton. China so far has been silent on what concessions, if any, it is prepared to make on cotton subsidies and tariffs.
Trade officials are pessimistic about the prospects of restarting the Doha negotiations in the near term. Reports indicate that several “soft landing” scenarios for Doha have been suggested, including the idea of “stop and reboot” floated by former US Trade Representative Susan Schwab. While many officials in Geneva are currently pessimistic about the prospects for the Doha Round ever concluding successfully, no WTO member has proposed that the organization admit defeat and give up on the talks, now in their 10th year.
“I can predict with certainty that members will not declare [Doha] dead at the ministerial,” Shark said. “But we don't know where we go from there, we won't know if Doha is really dead or not, only time will tell. We only know that it's not working now.”