This paper explores the strategy and assumptions that are pushing the Doha Round into dangerously troubled waters, and it assesses the different agendas on the table. It summarizes how we reached the current deadlock, and examines the state of the WTO’s legal dispute mechanism. It then critically assesses how divergences play out in the key policy areas of water exports, generic drugs, textile quotas, service-sector liberalization and agricultural subsidies. Lastly, it will try to answer the question of whether Doha is "a sure bet, or a train wreck" by looking at several of the prospects and possible scenarios that face the WTO post-Hong Kong. What is now evident is that a target deal seems more distant than ever.

It would appear that evolution is not going to be kind to the WTO. The Doha Round is too complex, which increases the possibility of failure; too intrusive to assuage many of global civil society’s concerns; and too anti-development for numerous countries in the Global South to come on board. Paradoxically, many countries are proving to be resilient and innovative when faced with the negotiating impasse and are not pushing the panic button. The global economy is not drifting towards protectionism and the core trading nations seem ready to accept a less dynamic WTO.

  • Daniel Drache is Associate Director of the Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies and Professor of Political Science at York University.