In November 2011, the Doha Round will be in its tenth year. Efforts continue in Geneva to conclude the negotiations but with no sign of agreement anytime soon. The talks have essentially been stuck since the last draft modalities of 2008, and no agreement seems close in the three key negotiating areas of agriculture, non-agricultural market access (NAMA) and services. Political will to conclude the talks is lacking, particularly among the major players, which include South Africa. Against this background, the broader political economy of the negotiations is analysed, focusing particularly on the likely political compromises and exchanges necessary to achieve agreement in the three separate negotiating areas. In South Africa, government, business and labour offer different perspectives of what would constitute a good development outcome for each negotiating area. Given that the NAMA-agriculture 'exchange rate' is weighted in favour of developed countries, in the event of a successful Doha outcome, South Africa's interests would be best served by making more concessions in the services sector in exchange for further concessions by developed countries in the agriculture negotiations; insisting on less policy space for developing countries; as well as the preservation of the NAMA carve-out for the Southern African Customs Union.
Authors: Peter Draper and Memory Dube