Doha dead and buried in Nairobi:
lessons for the WTO
Antoine Martin and Bryan Mercurio
Faculty of Law, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China
Purpose –This paper aims to reect on the outcomes of the Nairobi Ministerial Conference of 2015, which,
for all intents and purposes, put the Doha Round to rest and analyses the policy implications and lessons for
policymaking at the World Trade Organization (WTO), most importantly the abandonment of the “single
undertaking” and return to plurilateral agreements.
Design/methodology/approach –The paper approaches the issue of WTO policymaking by analysing
the various outputs produced both before and because of the Ministerial Conference.
Findings –The paper suggests that the Nairobi Ministerial has nally put an end to the Doha Round
and comes to the conclusion that policymaking at the multilateral level (i.e. through the single
undertaking) will change signicantly in the future because the WTO Members are incapable of reaching
a comprehensive agreement at this time. Instead, the current trend towards trade policymaking via FTA
is likely to continue while the WTO focuses on plurilateral negotiations on narrow and discreet issues.
Originality/value –The paper contributes to the literature on the analysis of global regulatory
fragmentation and on trade policymaking. It draws attention, in particular, to the consequences of the last
Ministerial Conference and highlights prospects for the future of global trade regulation.
Keywords Fragmentation, Doha Round, Nairobi Ministerial, Single undertaking,
Trade negotiations, World Trade Organization (WTO)
Paper type Research paper
The Doha Round – also referred to as the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) – has
been troubled almost from the beginning and left many onlookers concerned for the
future of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the multilateral trading system.
Suspended and revived several times over the past decade, the Doha Round
seemingly ended in defeat in 2008 (World Trade Organization, 2006;International
Center for Trade and Development, 2006;Castle and Landler, 2008;Stewart, 2008).
Since that time, attempts to revive the Round have been unsuccessful, and the Round
is essentially dead. The reasons for the collapse are numerous, but perhaps the most
important reason is that Members were simply not able to overcome longstanding
differences over old economy issues, most prominently agriculture-related policies.
Fourteen years after the launch of the Doha Round and following months of
contentious consultations, the 10th WTO Ministerial Conference held in Nairobi,
Kenya (“Nairobi Ministerial”), attempted to breathe new life into the Round by
reaching an agreement on the issues of export competition and agricultural
subsidies – the so-called Nairobi Package (World Trade Organization, 2015a). The
Nairobi Package has been described as an historic and ground-breaking sign of
progress, but the reality is less glowing, as there remain a number of issues that
have been left for the Members to determine and manage at a later stage. Moreover,
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Received 10 January 2017
Revised 10 January 2017
Accepted 10 January 2017
Journalof International Trade Law
Vol.16 No. 1, 2017
©Emerald Publishing Limited