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The WTO and the Doha Negotiation in Crisis?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 June 2014

Alexia Herwig*
University of Antwerp, Antwerpen, Belgium
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Is the World Trade Organization (WTO) in a legitimacy crisis and might the protracted Doha negotiations be evidence of it? This article understands the notion of ‘legitimacy crisis’ as a severe threat to an institution’s viability due to fundamental shifts in the legitimising ideas underlying the institution, an external threat to its values or its ability to fulfil its functions. It contends that the WTO is not yet definitely in a legitimacy crisis because the Doha negotiations still reveal the commitment of the WTO members to the values and legitimising ideas of the WTO. Perception of a legitimacy crisis fuels the negotiation of free trade agreements (FTAs) amongst key WTO members, which could be used to advance the Doha negotiations, force developing countries into agreement and shape the outcome of the negotiations in favour of developed countries. Such an outcome, this chapter cautions, could be the real onset of a legitimacy crisis if developing countries gain very little from a Doha agreement. To prevent a crisis and move the negotiations forward this chapter suggests that the different trade-related development needs of developing countries need to be assessed more seriously and developing countries need to be enabled to address serious adverse consequences linked to any trade liberalisation they undertake.

Part I Crisis and International Law: Decoy or Catalyst?
Copyright © T.M.C. Asser Instituut and the Authors 2013 

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