WHETHER it was fully admitted or not, it seems that this is the end of the formal World Trade Organization Doha Development Agenda after the dust settled in Nairobi, Kenya, on the 10th round of ministerial meetings.
Yes, an agreement was reached to end agricultural export subsidies, but no advancement was made on the tough agricultural issues of market access and domestic support. The most newsworthy thing to come out of the meeting may have been that ministers concluded the discussion Dec. 19 without providing a blanket affirmation to continue the Doha Round.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln policy specialist Brad Lubben said, "The Nairobi decision effectively signals that, when you can't achieve the broad consensus and see no effective path for progress, it is time to take the agreed-to principles and close the discussion."
U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said as WTO members start work next year, "they will be free to consider new approaches to pressing, unresolved issues and begin evaluating new issues for the organization to consider." Many agricultural groups welcomed this statement.
The U.S. Wheat Associates said it is "long past time for countries to shelve the failed Doha negotiations and move on to more productive trade liberalization efforts to address the challenges of the 21st century."
The National Milk Producers Federation and U.S. Dairy Export Council also were encouraged by the news that the U.S. will shift its focus to pursuing other opportunities within WTO.
Froman said the Doha Round is essentially over, and future negotiations must take place under a new architecture.
Dave Salmonsen, American Farm Bureau Federation senior director of congressional relations, said the big question is where WTO will go from here. "I think people want to add some new issues and deal with them in different ways," he said, adding that the new architecture will dictate future success.
Lubben said regional trade pacts like the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Trans-Atlantic Trade & Investment Partnership may be more the way of the future as opposed to a global WTO agreement.
"One impetus for future WTO negotiations may come from the developing countries that wanted preferential treatment in the WTO negotiations," Lubben noted. "Holding fast to that position didn't get them a comprehensive WTO agreement and instead left them on the outside looking in at all of the regional agreements. If they want to be a substantial part of the global trade system, they may need to refine their ambition for the trade talks."