Communication Flows in International Economic Law
The ‘collapse’ of the Doha Round this summer was somewhat anticipated in international circles although not exactly for the reasons that it did. It seems that the issues had narrowed down but at the last minute the differences with respect to safeguard measures in the agricultural sector for developing countries became an important point of contention between developed and developing countries. Leaving aside the merits and demerits of the arguments for safeguard measures the significance of this collapse rests as much in the failure of the institutional negotiating apparatus to anticipate such a disagreement, as well as to find ways of accommodating the divergent perspectives. In particular, developed and developing members alike need to understand the language and what underpins the language that each respectively engages with in the negotiating discourse. This injunction is not a mere reference to the mode of linguistic communication but refers to the manner of communication at a deeper level.
Furthermore the reduction of the ‘development concerns’ of the developing countries, for example in the call for a special safeguard mechanism, to something to be bartered in a reciprocal manner is unfortunate. To apply the trade negotiating apparatus, premised as it is on some kind of reciprocity in securing market access, to the inculcation of the development dimension in the multilateral trading system, is not appropriate. Development is not to be ‘bartered’. It is in fact an aspect which the developed and developing members alike need to address somewhat outside the framework of a negotiating apparatus that is focused on a ‘reciprocal’ bargain. One manner of securing market access may indeed involve negotiations based on some sort of reciprocity. On the other hand the case for securing development concerns needs to be made on its own merits. And if it involves concessions this should inter alia be on the basis of the affordability of those concessions, rather than necessarily in terms of what is obtained in return.