What future for the Doha Development Agenda and the multilateral negotiating regime?

Position:Proceedings of the 101st Annual Meeting of the American Society of International Law: The Future of International Law - Discussion

The panel was convened at 9:00 a.m., Friday, March 30, by its moderator, C. Donald Johnson of the University of Georgia Law School, who introduced the panelists: Raj Bhala of the University of Kansas School of Law; Sonia E. Rolland of the University of Cambridge Faculty of Law; and David Walters of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. *


By C. Donald Johnson ([dagger])

Welcome to the panel on the future of the Doha Development Agenda. My name is Don Johnson. I am the director of the Dean Rusk Center for International Law at the University of Georgia Law School and a former trade negotiator at USTR during the Clinton administration. I have been asked to replace Gabrielle Marceau as moderator of this panel, as she has been called away by her boss, WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy, on business that is related to this panel. And, of course, we all wish her well in that endeavor.

In July of last year, as you all know, Mr. Lamy indefinitely suspended the multilateral negotiations known formally as the Doha Development Agenda, after five and a half years of on-again, off-again talks. With the positions of the major negotiating partners apparently indelibly entrenched and with the U.S. negotiating authority scheduled to run out within a year, predictions of failure were becoming the order of the day through the end of last year. It was not until there was, in effect, a Green Room meeting at the World Economic Forum in Davos last January, in which about thirty trade ministers got together, that the Doha negotiations were put back on life support.

So here we are now with the New Quad Group of Brazil, India, the United States and the European Union going around the world holding meetings and non-meetings in a frantic effort to salvage the Doha Development Agenda. This Agenda, of course, began in 2001 and was scheduled to end in 2005. The President's negotiating authority now is effectively over at the end of March. (It doesn't actually end until July, but an agreement must be presented to Congress ninety days prior to that date, and it is highly unlikely that we will have an agreement on Doha by the end of this month.) Thus, it is quite obvious that the President's Trade Promotion Authority will have to be extended if Doha is ever to be completed, and this will be no easy feat. The Congress refused to grant such authority at all during the Clinton administration. The Republican majority in Congress only gave the so-called Bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority to President Bush with a one-vote majority, with very little bipartisan support. However, we hope that it can be extended. There are members of Congress led by Congressman Charlie Rangel who are working very hard to try to build bipartisan support for a trade initiative. I think that there is some level of optimism that that is going to happen.

The issue before this panel, as it has been described in the Annual Meeting program, involves a number of questions that this very distinguished panel is going to discuss. I am not going to require them to answer all of these questions, but we will at least discuss the questions, which include: What is the likelihood of a Doha recovery? If it does recover, what will be the result? Will it be on Doha-lite or something more substantial? What has been the effect of the Doha Round on the "Development Agenda" and the issues important to developing countries? What has been the impact of the Doha Round on the United States, the European Union, and other developed countries? What has been the impact of the Doha Round on the WTO itself? What has been the effect of the role played by China and the new leading roles played by Brazil and India and the G-20? Finally, will Doha mark the end of multilateral negotiating rounds in favor of a swing toward regional or bilateral trade agreements? We have an excellent panel to discuss these questions. I will introduce all three of the panelists, and they will speak in the order in which I introduce them.

First to speak will be my former colleague David Walters who is the Assistant USTR for Economic Affairs and the Chief Economist at USTR. David has been at USTR since 1979, almost thirty years, so he has been there long enough to know what...

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