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The Doha Development Agenda

Working papers

Written by Sheila Page

The purpose of assessing the likely outcome of the Doha Development Round and its poverty impact was to make it possible to understand what aspects of the outcome might be particularly favourable or unfavourable for poverty reduction. This would allow governments either to suggest modifications or to design, at country or donor level, complementary or offsetting policies that can help countries to take full advantage of positive effects and to mitigate negative ones. The collapse of the Ministerial meeting at Cancún in September 2003 and the failure to reach formal agreement on how to proceed at the resumed meeting of 15 December in Geneva means that these issues are no longer as urgent. But the proposals and counterproposals that were made remain on the table, and while the negotiations may be more limited, more prolonged, and perhaps more spread out among different negotiating fora, the questions raised, of what types of initiative are most beneficial for reducing poverty in developing countries, are still important. The clear divergences of interests among developing country groups at Cancún confirmed the assumption behind this study, that it would be necessary to look at different groups of countries and individual countries to answer the questions. Even where trade reforms unambiguously improve total world welfare, the distribution among countries may leave some losers, just as we observe at national level. Unlike the national level, there are no formal mechanisms to redistribute income to compensate the losers, but, as we noted in the pre-Cancún interim report, the risk of losers is now increasingly recognised among donors and international organisations, and proposals are coming forward to deal with it.

Sheila Page and Tim Conway