In November 2001, in Doha, Qatar, the WTO membership launched the Doha Round, also known as Doha Development Round, through which the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade committed themselves to seek trade liberalization and economic growth, with emphasis on the needs of developing countries.
The Round’s negotiations included agriculture, non-agricultural market access (NAMA), services trade, rules (on the application of antidumping rights, subsidies and countervailing measures, fisheries subsidies and regional agreements), trade and environment (including the trade of environmental goods), trade facilitation and some aspects of intellectual property, in addition to an horizontal discussion on the special and differentiated treatment in favor of developing countries. On the sidelines of the Round´s formal mandate, but in parallel with its negotiations, the improvements of the rules on the dispute settlement were discussed.
Brazil and several other developing countries understood that the Doha Round’s negotiations should focus on agriculture, a sector accounting for a good part of their exports. It shall be highlighted that, during the former GATT negotiating rounds, this sector was object of a significantly modest effort of liberalization, when compared to the manufactured goods sector, the reason why it is still highly protected against imports in many countries and is subject to less demanding disciplines. In this sense, the Doha Round should have the objective of correcting, as much as possible, the distortions prevailing in the agriculture trade, promoting the elimination of the subsidies to exports, the substantial reduction and the regulation of the subsidies to the production (domestic support), besides the expansion of market access to those goods.
In the context of the agriculture negotiations of the Round, the Group of 20 (G-20) was created in August 2003, on the eve of the Ministerial Conference in Cancun. This group, composed of developing countries from three continents (Latin America, Asia, and Africa), defends the ambitious accomplishment of the three pillars of the agriculture mandate of the Doha Round: the access to markets (tariff reduction), the removal of subsidies on exports and the reduction of internal support subsidies (mainly on production). Brazil played a very important role in the coordination of the positions of this coalition during the WTO’s agriculture negotiations.
In the current scenario of post-global economic and financial crisis recovery and of concern about the intensification of trade protectionism, the conclusion of the Round and the strengthening of the multilateral trading system, on a balanced, clear and inclusive basis, have become even more necessary. However, the progress achieved at the negotiations was insufficient, especially from July 2008, when the meeting of Ministers in Geneva failed in the attempt to approve agreements on agriculture and NAMA areas.