The Have Nots Have It: Triumph Of Developing Countries At The World Trade OrganizationMeeting In Geneva

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RamMohan R. Yallapragada
Ron M. Sardessai
Madhu R. Paruchuri

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Abstract

In July 2004, 147 World Trade Organization (WTO) member countries met in Geneva where the developed countries agreed to cut back and eventually eliminate an estimated $350 billion of their farm and export subsidies. The accord was hammered out by five WTO members including India and Brazil and submitted to the WTOs plenary session where it was finally ratified on July 31, 2004. The Fifth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization held in Cancun in September 2003 collapsed from inside as internal squabbles and irreconcilable philosophical differences developed between the developed countries and the developing countries. The WTO, which started with noble objectives of raising the global standards of living through international trade agreements and cooperation among the WTO member countries, appeared to be teetering on the verge of a complete collapse. Over the past decade, through five ministerial conferences, the WTO member countries gradually got polarized into two main blocks, the haves and the have nots, the developed countries and the still developing countries respectively. One of the important items of contention was the issue of reduction and elimination of the huge farm subsidies in the European Union (EU) and the United States (US). At the 2003 WTO conference in Cancun, 21 of the developing countries formed a group, known as G-21 initiated under the leadership of Brazil and India, and insisted on discussions for elimination of the farm subsidies of the EU-US combine. The EU and US governments give billions of dollars worth of agricultural and export subsidies annually to their farmers that allow them to have a competitive advantage in international markets in effect preventing agricultural producers in developing countries from having access to global markets. The EU delegates insisted that the four Singapore issues must be dealt with first before including any discussions on the issues of farm subsidies on the agenda. The G-21 over night swelled into G-70. The developing countries refused to be pushed into a corner and have proved that they are now a force to reckon with. The WTO Cancun conference came to a dramatic end without any agreement, leaving the negotiations in a deadlock. At the historic July 2004 WTO negotiations in Geneva, an accord has been reached under which the developed countries agreed to reduce and eventually eliminate their export and farm subsidies. The developing countries also agreed to lower their tariffs on imports from EU-US and other developed countries. The accord is expected to pave the way for the resumption of the WTO Doha Round of multilateral negotiations to liberalize world trade.

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