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World Trade Organization trade negotiations (the so-called Doha Development Agenda negotiations)

For the last sixty years, there have been international rules governing trade in goods and more recently services for many major trading nations.In 1995, the World Trade Organization (WTO) was started.As of January 2008, the WTO has 152 members, with nearly 30 other countries who are not current members in various stages of accession.

World Trade Organization (WTO) members have been trying to come up with a new worldwide agreement to cut tariffs and subsidies and to upgrade international trade rules in order to create economic opportunities for all countries and to spur development in poor countries.The negotiations were kicked off in Doha, the capital of Qatar, in 2001 giving this round of international trade negotiations the name of the Doha Development Round.

American manufacturers, service companies, and farmers have a real stake in the outcome of these talks particularly small and mid-sized enterprises.These companies comprise 97 percent of U.S. exporters and account for 28.6 percent of U.S exports. At the same time, they face some of the toughest barriers to getting into new markets and are often the most vulnerable to international competition and unfair trade practices abroad or at home.

A successful Doha Round should make it easier for them to export around the world where 95 percent of the worlds consumers live.If talks falter, tariffs and other trade barriers, including arcane legal and regulatory regimes, will come down far slower.Many of the issues on the table in the Doha Round will have a direct effect on U.S. laws, levels of tariffs in the U.S., the level of permissible subsidies and how trade remedy laws work in short, the issues will affect the kind of competition U.S. companies will face in the years ahead.The same is true for producers in most other countries of the world.

It has been a complex undertaking to get 152 countries of all sizes and stages of development to agree on even the outline of an agreement.Not surprisingly, different countries have different problems with additional liberalization and additional priorities in terms of what they want trading partners to liberalize.Moreover, the structure of the negotiations are designed to facilitate development and so developing countries are expecting to be asked to do less, a concept evolving as to it meaning and implications.After six years, the next few months could determine whether or not an agreement can come together this year.

We have put together a series of papers that provide a snapshot of where the Doha Rounds stands.

The easiest and most useful way to look at the Doha Round is to break it up into six topics:
1) Agricultural largely tariffs and subsidies;
2) Industrial (Non-Agricultural Market Access)
3) Services – including legal services
4) Rules mainly what countries can do on behalf of sectors
5) Trade Facilitation efforts to streamline customs procedures and
6) Dispute settlement making sure the system for resolving trade disputes

These papers are not intended as recommendations for U.S. or other negotiators.Rather, they are snapshots by an outside observer of an important moment in the negotiations.

The easiest and most useful way to look at the Doha Round is to break it up into six topics:1) Agricultural largely tariffs and subsidies; 2) Industrial (Non-Agricultural Market Access, or NAMA, in WTO parlance) mostly tariffs but also so-called non-tariff barriers such as regulatory barriers to access; 3) Services – including legal services, telecommunications, financial services, consulting services, etc; 4) Rules mainly what countries can do on behalf of sectors and companies affected by dumping and subsidies; 5) Trade Facilitation efforts to streamline customs procedures to permit more rapid movement and clearance of goods and reduced costs in the entry process and to provide technical assistance for developing countries to permit them to improve the movement of goods into and out of their countries; and 6) Dispute settlement making sure the system for resolving trade disputes is working and exploring ways to improve the system.
If a breakthrough occurs in late March/early April, which is possible, WTO Members would likely complete the agreement by the end of 2008, permitting governments to consider and adopt the agreements under their national laws and systems after that.If there is not a breakthrough early this spring, talks could stall until a new Administration is in place and is ready to reengage in the negotiation process.

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