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WTO must ponder its raison d'etre amid prolonged Doha stalemate

Published Wed, Dec 16, 2015 · 09:50 PM

WHILE the Paris climate conference and expectations around the US Federal Reserve's Dec 15-16 meeting have been hogging the limelight of late, another high-level global gathering of ministers is taking place this week without much fanfare - and so far without hitting the headlines as it did in the past.

Not that there hasn't been any media mention altogether, but news about the World Trade Organization's 10th ministerial conference, which began in Nairobi on Tuesday, have focused on questions around the continued relevance of the 20-year-old Geneva-based institution amid a proliferation of bilateral and regional trade pacts today, and with its flagship Doha Round of trade talks still deadlocked after 14 years. As one analysis put it, the big question hanging over the conference in the Kenyan capital is - does the WTO matter anymore? Launched in 2001, the Doha negotiations to liberalise global trade - and aimed particularly at helping developing countries join the global marketplace - have sputtered along, well past its original 2005 completion target and still going nowhere amid a stalemate between developed and developing countries over agricultural subsidies. Meanwhile, with the multilateral trading system failing to advance free trade, countries around the…

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