Russia finally joined the WTO – a long-held strategic goal for the EU – but European efforts to revitalise the Doha Round ran out of steam at the end of the year.
The EU had a mixed year in the WTO. 2011 saw Russia finally become a member of the organisation, fulfilling a long-held European strategic goal (see component 13). Montenegro also joined the WTO this year, which may help it draw closer to the EU. However, the decade-old Doha Round of talks on trade liberalisation continued to drift, threatening the WTO’s credibility, and the EU was unable to either revitalise or end the talks. At the start of the year, efforts were made to get the process moving again, but by April it appeared that the round could fail altogether. The European Commission, which negotiates on behalf of the EU, continued to highlight the economic benefits of a potential deal and argued for an “ambitious” new round of discussions covering the “recovery and
rebalancing of the global economy”. This goal appeared unlikely to be achieved and non-Western governments accused the EU and US of pushing bilateral trade deals in the meantime. The European Commission also highlighted the importance of addressing the concerns of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs).
At the G20 summit in Cannes in November, the assembled leaders concluded that a Doha deal was impossible without a new approach to negotiations, and they also noted the importance of the LDCs. If the G20’s position echoed the EU’s priorities, it was not sufficient to generate action at annual ministerial meetings at the WTO in December. Participants agreed on the need for new negotiating methods, and the diplomatic atmosphere reportedly improved, but there was no substantive progress. The EU also has other interests in the WTO. In particular, in late December, the US made an appeal for up to $10 billion
in sanctions against the EU over subsidies to Airbus. But as protectionism becomes a greater threat against the background of the economic crisis, the failure of Doha is a source of increasing concern.