Analytical Note, December 2015

WTO’s MC10: The Nairobi Ministerial Declaration

When launched in 2001, the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) had the objective of being a Development Round. However, substantive development concerns have often been sidelined in the course of the negotiations. Without the Doha mandate, developing countries have no guarantee that the important issues of disciplines on domestic supports, special safeguard in agriculture and cotton will feature in future negotiations on Agriculture.

Moreover, if the Doha mandate is closed, the 2004 General Council’s decision on the Doha Agenda work programme (i.e. the “July package”) that investment, transparency in government procurement, and competition will not be negotiated within the WTO during the Doha Round will not stand anymore.

Since the Doha Ministerial Conference in 2001, subsequent Ministerial Declarations and General Council Decisions have reaffirmed the Doha Mandate. In the run up to Nairobi, developing countries have taken a consistent position calling for the reaffirmation of the Doha Development Agenda. They also did not welcome the introduction of ‘new issues’.

The stakes are high for developing countries in the process of preparing the Ministerial Declaration. According to the WTO rules, a Ministerial Declaration is a declaration of the highest decision-making body of the WTO, and embodies a political mandate and further guidance regarding the round of negotiations, which can be altered only by another Ministerial Declaration (or decision of the General Council conducting the functions of the Ministerial Conference). Furthermore, a Chair’s text, although not binding, can be referred to later on in the negotiations and could have an important persuasive impact on the direction of negotiations.

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