The WTO intends to hold its November 9-13 ministerial conference in Doha, Qatar, as scheduled, despite security concerns in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks. With the global economy in a slump and globalization called into question, the Bush administration has stated that a new round of international trade talks is more important than ever. European ministers and leaders of Asian-Pacific states have voiced support for a new trade round as well. WTO Director-General Michael Moore has stated that he also is optimistic about the prospects for a new round.
However, a new round will not be launched on enthusiasm alone. As support has mounted, so have the obstacles. Negotiations are bound to be contentious as WTO members struggle to balance the concerns of the developing economies with the imperatives of the developed economies. The developing economies have voiced concerns over their representation within the organization, calling for widespread structural and institutional reforms. They are also concerned about environmental and labor provisions likely to be pressed by the European Union and the United States, and over provisions affecting the struggle to combat infectious disease.
The United States and EU relationship will also be a focus at the WTO. With a number of trade disputes unresolved, and a recent ruling in favor of the U.S. steel industry paving the way for higher tariffs on steel imports, it is uncertain how far the United States will be willing to go on anti-dumping issues. It also remains to be seen whether the EU and the U.S. will be able to make headway on controversial issues such as environmental protection and agricultural subsidies. Trade in textiles, services, and telecommunications are other key issues lacking resolution. Also on the WTO agenda will be China’s impending accession to the organization.
A panel of experts will answer questions pertaining to the upcoming WTO ministerial conference.