Reflections on the WTO's Nairobi outcome

10 March 2016

The Tenth WTO Ministerial Conference (MC10) meeting in Nairobi, Kenya ended in circumstances that left many members questioning the future of the WTO. The Doha Round has reached its crossroads with some members pushing for a change in the negotiating mandate and not reaffirming the round in its current form, while others prefer that the current mandate be exhausted before taking on any new issues.

The relevance of the Doha mandate in the changed trading architecture is a real issue for the organisation. WTO members’ attention has shifted to regional trade agreements that are addressing these new issues. There has been a push for new approaches, which are not about low hanging fruits anymore. There has also been a push for new issues, such as digital economy, regulatory coherence, global value chains, labour, environment, and competition policies. These issues have been floating around for some time and they have now been put clearly, squarely on the table but with no indications as to how to advance on them.

In the meantime the Doha Round has not fully delivered on its development objectives. However, the least developed countries have had some beneficial decisions from Bali to Nairobi.

How do we take forward the outcomes from the MC10 in the new context of the global economy which will be marked by the set of agreements reached in the course of last year? This includes financing for development, the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, the COP21 climate agreement, and the MC10 outcome. This new context is also marked by changes in the realm of trade and production, as new ways of organising production have taken a very prominent role in the international economy.

In an insightful analysis, Christophe Bellmann, senior resident research fellow at ICTSD [the publishers’ of Bridges Africa] reviews some of the key MC10 outcomes and assesses possible ways forward to advance the concerns of LDCs. This article is complemented by another assessment of the MC10 agricultural outcome by ICTSD’s agriculture expert, Jonathan Hepburn, according to whom Nairobi was a step forward allowing LDCs to take a meaningful bite of trade in food and farm goods. This edition also features an article that looks at the opportunities and challenges as stakeholders move to the implementation of the Paris climate change agreement. 

As usual, we welcome your substantive feedback and contributions. Write to us at bridgesafrica@ictsd.ch.

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