NAIROBI, Kenya — U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman has warned that the World Trade Organization may slip into irrelevance as a negotiating forum unless members use the conference in Kenya this week to free themselves from the “strictures” of the Doha round and embrace a more “pragmatic” approach to both new and old trade policy issues.
Inside U.S. Trade | December 13, 2015
In an op-ed published Dec. 13 by the Financial Times, Froman framed the Dec. 15-18 meeting here as the last chance for ministers to either show a willingness to move on from the Doha framework or demonstrate that the WTO is mired in paralysis. He characterized either outcome as illustrating the point that the multilateral, single-undertaking “architecture” of the Doha round has been a failure.
“One way or the other, this week’s ministerial conference in Nairobi will mark the end of an era,” Froman said. “The U.S. is still working to secure a package of measured but meaningful results, but what cannot be achieved in Nairobi will not be achieved by trying again with the same failed approach. Pretending otherwise would intensify the search for solutions outside the WTO, raising questions about its relevance in trade negotiations.”
Froman wrote “there is no light at the end of the tunnel” in the Doha negotiations, despite what he said were two years of “intensified engagement,” and noted that other WTO members including the European Union “have been clear about the need to chart a more productive path forward.”
“That path forward is a new form of pragmatic multilateralism,” he continued, in a piece that also touted the mega-regional Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement as well as plurilateral sectoral deals like the Information Technology Agreement as examples of initiatives that have “raced ahead” while Doha has faltered.
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