African issues in the Doha Round negotiations

Term Paper, 2017
11 Pages, Grade: 1



1. Introduction
1.1. Guiding values

2. The Doha Round issues
2.1 Agriculture
2.2 LDCs and NFICDs Special Concerns
2.3 Non-agricultural market access
2.4 Domestic support issue
2.5 Services
2.6 Intellectual Property
2.7 Trade and Development
2.8 Trade and Environment
2.9 WTO Rules
2.10 Accesses to patented medicine

3. Achievements

4. Conclusion

5. References


Most African countries rely highly on agriculture and as a result, the main source of GDP. The agriculture negotiations commenced in the early 2000 under Article 20 of the World Trade Organization Agriculture Agreement. This paper seeks to discuss on the African issues in the Doha Round negotiations.

Keywords: Agriculture, market access, subsidy, developed countries, developing countries

1. Introduction

The Doha Round is the most recent round of trade negotiations amongst the 157 WTO members since the 1940s, commenced 2001. This is the first ever round since the adoption of the multilateral approach to trade system. Its envisioned objective is attain reforms in the international trading system by ensuring low trade barriers introduction and trade rules revision and/or writing. The adopted Doha Round is semi officially known as the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) work programme containing approximately 20 trade areas that are deemed to achieve the set objectives. During these talks, different states either from the core or the periphery have different interests and thus seek to have them addressed in the most viable resolutions.

1.1. Guiding values

The guiding principles to these talks were to deliberate on the way forward on consensus and as such, should there be discord, no decision would be reached at, that is, no aspect of the talks would form part of the agreement unless every clause and consequences therein were unanimously agreed upon. With the complex guiding principles, these talks are yet to be completed as the member states have to agree on the best approach to guard their interests which are also politically driven and are beneficial to their economy.

The interests of the developing world have to be well taken care off in the work programme thus in a way shifting the trade policy beneficial vantage aspect of the international trade policies to the developed world. The least developed countries development had to take the centre stage in these talks. This is to ensure that there’s inclusivity and that all nations reap the benefits of global economic growth and that their economic development go hand in hand with their needs. This according to the WTO would be achieved through: access of markets, equal application of the formulated international trade rules, focused and sustainable technical aid and training programmes to the peripheral countries. Even though to some extent, these talks have not quite benefitted the LDCs as it was expected.[1]

2. The Doha Round issues

The main DDA areas of negotiation include: agriculture, non-agricultural market access (NAMA), services, intellectual property, trade and development, trade and environment, trade facilitation, WTO rules, dispute settlement understanding.

2.1 Agriculture

Most of the African countries are highly dependent on agriculture, which translates to 75 % as the main source of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Thus it is worth noting that the agreements emanating from the Doha Round would in a way interfere with their main source of income. This in itself was the main fear for the African countries.

The US expectation of the developing countries to have the developing countries make significant reduction in tariffs while limiting the number of import sensitive goods, which originate from the developed countries. Thus real concern of the African states towards the developed countries would be to open up there protected markets for the agricultural goods while at the same substantially reducing the subsidies imposed on the farm goods. This would go a long way towards ensuring that the developing countries reap maximum benefits from the agricultural produce. This would eliminate the unfair agricultural market system that seems to be more favorable to the developed world.

Domestic subsidies was also an issue in these talks, to that extent, there were Green Box exemptions which is known as the Special and Differential Box “S D Box” were extended to the developing nations. This would help in the formulation of international trade rules.

The greatest of concerns with regard to agriculture as discussed by the African Group and G-33 were rehabilitation of land, conservation of soil and management of resources, drought management and control of floods, employment programmes directed to the rural population, issuance of land title deeds and settlement programmes.

Most African countries concentrate their policies on development and direct the least financial resources and ability to promote the best agricultural practices and in consequence food security of a nation, and as such rely on the private citizens i.e. farmers to provide them with the agricultural products. This is due to the climate change effects; prolonged drought, degraded land as a result the government buys food from farmers at controlled prices to stock up their grain storage also known as “Amber Box”. This approach according to the WTO promotes limits to the production value up to 10%. This practice tends to destabilize the market prices and the quantities produced. The African states facing lack of resources and technology would be challenged in upholding this agreement. The “traditional staple foods” to this end, would be safeguarded hence not affect trade.

2.2 LDCs and NFICDs Special Concerns

According to the African Group Proposal (Committee on Agriculture Special Session, 2001), the agricultural reform programme would have negative effects to them. The Marrakesh Ministerial Declaration addresses food aid, technical and financial assistance as well as access to financial facilities with the main aim of improving the agricultural productivity and infrastructure of the developing nations. It is therefore fundamental that this decision is binding as is under Article 16 of the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA). To address this issue, some proposals were made they include a revolving fund to assist the developing nations while making sure that the financial institutions have LDCs benefit from the established rules.

The food aid ought to be in full grant so as to address the urgent need for food aid within a stated period of time.

2.3 Non-agricultural market access

The levels of open markets access to all the members was also discussed at length, even though the discussions did not yield acceptable results to the developing nations. This was due to the fact that the developed countries, in particular the US bilateral agreements sought access to the emerging markets economies such as South Africa, China, India and Brazil. The willingness that the US exuded the intention to pay more additional costs to be let into the market proved to be a contentious issue at the DDA (Bridges, 2010).

2.4 Domestic support issue

It was observed that there exists an imbalance in domestic support measures. The African group agricultural policy has been penalized under the multilateral rules and as such has had severe consequences to their economies.

2.5 Services

The LDC proposal to the WTO was that there was a favorable chance for the LDCs to benefit from the WTO LDC Waiver for the main purpose of catalyzing opportunities for them while facilitating their incorporation into the multilateral trading systems (WTO, 2014). This would be disadvantageous to the developing world as it promotes the multinational corporations that always tend to take over their markets and to some extent meddle in the different sectors including politics. Their entry is costly to the developing nations as they are expected to provide simplified work permits and visa processes, taxation exemption for the foreign workforce. Special preferential treatment was extended to the developing countries. This category also affected the health and public education. As such the adoption of electronic applications as well as the application fees should be reasonable. As for the domestic regulation of the services, the LDCs sought for exemption on taking up any new obligations which was supported by the other members.

2.6 Intellectual Property

The LDCs had a concern that the HDCs would not likely open up their markets in order to make a good environment for technological transfer. This has always happened due to the fact that the developed countries have always shielded their technology transfer from the developing countries. This thus means that there’s a highly likelihood in dependence for the conversion of agricultural goods as well as information, communication and technology services and infrastructure, and if so, the technology or the infrastructure are imposed high tariffs or subsidies thus proving to be a more expensive venture to the acquiring nation. This kind of relationship promotes crevices between the developed and developing worlds. The developed nations take advantage of the developing nations hence the agreement for the developed nations to cut industrial tariffs while at the same time opening up their industrial goods markets in all the member states markets (Reuters, 2009).

2.7 Trade and Development

Trade and development is a great factor towards the realization of economies. As a consequence, the states which have formulate and implement policies that assist towards this goal. The fact that developing countries’ economies are deemed to be vulnerable proves that they need special treatment and also longer time to recover upon adoption of trade preferences.

2.8 Trade and Environment

The negotiation between the WTO rules and the multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) proves to some extent that the WTO rules are flouted. This may be through some of the rules that may authorize trade in a certain product but at the same time ban trade in the same products with nation states that have not signed the MEA. The MEAs section on “specific trade obligations” (STOs) had to be deliberated further and the members took upon themselves to adhere to the WTO rules

2.9 WTO Rules

The WTO rules clearly specify that all members shall be treated equally in the trading system and as such, no country should discriminate against another. It is captured in the General Agreement on Trade and Services (GATS) Article 2 and the Agreement on Trade- Related Aspects on Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).This principle is known as the Most Favored Nation (MFN) which directs the way in which goods are traded. The African states were concerned of the blocs that exist and seeks to discriminate on the rest of the world specifically the developing worlds. Thus the developed always seek to infiltrate the markets or take advantage of the lowered trade barriers and open markets to a point of exploiting them. Thus the lack of fair competition.

Most of the trade agreements that are made are not always transparent to the implementation since the core always exploits the periphery and as such relations are severed as there is no predictability on what is to be done and what is not to be done however binding the commitment. The developing countries were of the opinion that the rules should be much more beneficial to them so as to give them flexibility and to some length special treatment.

2.10 Accesses to patented medicine

The most important element of the TRIPS agreement gives pharmaceutical companies exclusive patent rights on drug innovations for a period of 20 years. While patent rights have long been protected, the controversy surrounding TRIPS is that it denies poorer countries access to drugs vital to maintaining public health. This is because, developing countries largely benefit from generic medicine

3. Achievements

The Doha Development Agenda (DDA) Round negotiations were negotiated in three years even though not all issues therein have been agreed upon by the member states. As such, the Ministers agreed on a futuristic work plan to address these issues. The main objective of the Doha Round is to ensure that all countries reap the benefits emanating from the multidimensional trade liberalization. This kind of arrangement according to the IMF would accrue to earnings of close to US $100 billion in 2015, with US$ 20 billion to the developing countries

Member countries did not reach agreement on the magnitude reduction in agricultural trade barriers inclusive of tariffs and subsidies. Tariffs are taxes imposed on imports and are a means to protect the domestic industries.[2] It is paid on a reductions accord to the African states would negatively affect their economy as it would discourage exports. The developed countries slipped in their protectionist approach to their economies which to a very big extent negatively affect the least developed countries’ economies. This to some degree may negatively affect the economy by the creation of impediments to export.

On market access on non-agricultural products, the main aim was to reduce the tariff or where possible do away with tariffs especially on export products that are much needed by the developing countries. To this end, the needs of the peripheral countries

The lack of clear information and a lack of sound economic analysis

4. Conclusion

From the DDA to Bali Package among other conducted rounds, the fact that the Nairobi Package for Africa and the World,[3] which originates from six Ministerial Decisions seeks to address consensually on agriculture and other issues that affect the LDCs. According to Director General Roberto Azevêdo,[4] the DDA paved way to the Nairobi Package which is considered to be the “most significant.

The obligation reached at by the present 160 countries is to abolish export subsidies while at the same time WTO came up with the Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals with regard to tackling hunger. Most of the consensus emanate from the 2013 Bali Package[5] which give steps on agriculture, food security and support for the LDCs and general development through the Trade Facilitation Agreement. Thus all agricultural products have bound tariff.


[1] Global Trade After the Failure of the Doha Round. The New York Times (Jan, 2016). Accessed at on 29th November 2017.

[2] The Balance (2017) Tariffs: Pros, Cons, and Examples. How Taxes to Protect America's Jobs Makes Your Food Cost More

[3] The first ever African hosted Ministerial Conference was held in Nairobi, Kenya from 15th to 19th December 2015. This was the tenth WTO Ministerial Conference. Chaired by Amina Mohamed, Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs and International Trade

[4] Director General Roberto Azevêdo is the sixth WTO Director General. He currently is serving his second term as D-G WTO upon consensus by the member states on 1st September 2017.

[5] Bali Package were adopted by the General Council on 27th November 2014. A result of the Ninth Ministerial Conference held in Bali, Indonesia from 3rd to 7th December 2013. The acceptance of Yemen into the WTO was realized.

Excerpt out of 11 pages


African issues in the Doha Round negotiations
University of Nairobi  (Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies)
International Conflict Management
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ISBN (Book)
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African issues, Doha Round, Agriculture, market access
Quote paper
BSc. BIT MA (ICM) Nangira Namano (Author), 2017, African issues in the Doha Round negotiations, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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