A final declaration for the fourth WTO Ministerial Session was finally issued on November 14 after negotiations that extended well past the original deadline. Trade czars Robert Zoellick of the United States and Pascal Lamy of the European Union are hailing the agreement as launching a new global round of trade negotiations. Many analysts dispute this, saying that negotiations on investment and competition policy–which are are the top of the US and EU agenda–cannot be launched until after the fifth ministerial in 2003, and only after a "written consensus decision" is issued by the WTO.
Overall, however, the declaration was a defeat for the developing countries whose demand that the ministerial focus its work mainly on implementation issues connected with the previous trade round–the so-called Uruguay Round– which received only perfunctory mention. Developing countries did win an important concession giving public health precedence over patents, which the pharmecutical industry had strongly resisted, but as a number of observers have pointed out, the declaration leaves unchanged the language of the Agreement on Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs), which could serve as the basis for future legal challenges to their efforts to override pharmaceutical patents. The European Union successfully watered down developing country demands for getting rid of agricultural export subsidies and the United States refused to accede to developing country demands that it accelerate the phaseout of its textile quotas.
Yet the developed countries' victory may well be short-term since their arm-twisting was greatly resented and resisted by the poor countries. The declaration, in fact, could only be finalized after India agreed to abstain at the last-minute, after resisting for hours. The legacy of the Doha summit may well be the continuing erosion of legitimacy of the WTO.
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As the Fourth Ministerial entered its final day of intense negotiations on November 13, developed and developing countries still seemed to be locked in a stalemate on a number of key issues, including agricultural subsidies, trade-related intellectual property rights and public health, a review of anti-dumping rules, and extending WTO coverage to investment, competition policy and government procurement. The future of the WTO hangs in the balance. Members of the WTO secretariat say that the organization cannot afford another Seattle in Doha. Failure to create consensus around a Ministerial Declaration may well lead to an unraveling of the trade body.