New Work Programme of the WTO
The membership of the World Trade Organization is faced with a heavy agenda of work over the next three years arising from the mandate set by the WTO's Fourth Ministerial Conference held in Doha in November 2001. The Work Programme entails both fresh and continuing negotiations, discussions on new issues and reviews of existing WTO disciplines. In general, it adds to the prevailing North-South imbalance in the WTO system, focusing as it does on subjects of interest to the developed-country Members even as issues of concern to the developing countries are effectively sidelined.
This paper provides a general analysis of the overall tenor of the Doha Work Programme before delving into detailed examinations of each of the major areas of work covered by the programme, including the implementation issues, agriculture, services, industrial tariffs, intellectual property rights, WTO rules, trade and environment, electronic commerce, and the controversial "Singapore issues" of investment, competition policy, transparency in government procurement and trade facilitation.
The author, a leading trade expert who was actively involved in foreign trade diplomacy and served in the UN system, identifies specific provisions of the Work Programme which are potentially favourable to the developing countries and those which could work to the detriment of their development needs. He provides concrete suggestions for actions that can be taken in each area of the programme by developing countries to build on the possible benefits therein and ward off the emerging threats in order to safeguard and promote their economic development.
About the Author: Bhagirath Lal Das was formerly India's Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the GATT forum. He has also served as Director of International Trade Programmes at UNCTAD. He is currently a consultant and advisor to several intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations.