Towards a Development Round
The failure of the WTO ministerial meeting in Seattle, which was to have launched a new Round of multilateral trade negotiations, was a setback for the development of a liberal international trading system governed by multilaterally agreed rules. This failure should be a cause of concern to developing countries as they would benefit greatly from a rules-based trading system. The lack of agreement in Seattle to review existing rules that are unhelpful to development will not make the problems of developing countries disappear. Furthermore their reasonable concern about the implementation of the Uruguay Round agreements and their need for additional assistance will not be addressed. Of course no deal is better than a bad deal, and it is doubtful whether the deal the Quad was proposing at the time was, broadly speaking, in the developing countries' interests.
The Seattle meeting left a number of loose ends, for example with regard to transition periods that have expired and a number of smaller issues on which agreement was needed for the ongoing operation of certain agreements, such as that on TRIPS (see Chapter 7). At the same time the WTO negotiations on agriculture and services, already mandated under the Uruguay Round have started, as has a review of the TRIPS agreement. And the possibility of a new Round is being kept alive by the developed countries. Thus in the months and years ahead, developing countries will need to develop strategies for the ongoing negotiations, identify topics that they themselves want to bring to the WTO as well as their position on issues that others propose for a new Round of negotiations. No single strategy will suit them all. Their varying trading interests require them to develop different strategies and pursue these in coalitions with other WTO Members.