What you need to know about the WTO
Demonstrations: Not a factor this year, given the tight controls on who will be allowed into Qatar. WTO opponents will be among the nongovernmental organizations attending as observers, but there will be no demonstrators in the streets.
Agenda: WTO staff and country representatives will work on a meeting agenda and draft a statement. Areas where there is no agreement are set off by pairs of brackets. Before Seattle, the draft was 34 pages and there were 402 pairs of brackets. In advance of Doha, the draft is 20 pages and there are 13 pairs of brackets.
The have nots: The Lesser Developed Countries and developing countries, which actually hold a majority in the WTO with about 100 of the 142 members, revolted in Seattle, one of the main reasons the meeting collapsed. They were tired of being dictated to by the larger economies. Since Seattle, the WTO has worked with them to resolve many complaints.
Implementation: Lesser Developed Countries have found it difficult to implement requirements because their countries are poorer, heavily in debt or facing slower economic growth.
This group also thought the WTO was moving too fast on some issues, including labor standards, the environment and agriculture.
Agriculture: Always a contentious issue. The key is subsidies; Europe gives farmers heavy subsidies and wants to continue that practice. Japan usually lines up with Europe. The U.S. and a group of agricultural exporting nations called the Cairnes Group push for open markets.
While no new agreements on agriculture will come out of the meeting, the language for how the issue will be taken up in a new round of trade talks could be key.
Services: Another sticky area. The main obligation under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) is what's called most-favored-nation treatment. If a country allows foreign competition in a sector, equal opportunities should be given to service providers from all other WTO members.
Air-transport services, a broad area now covered by industry groups or bilateral agreements, are currently excluded from the GATS. A review under way could lead to negotiations that deal with air transport.
Intellectual property: This is called TRIPS in WTO parlance, standing for Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights. It covers such issues as copyrights, patents, trade names and geographic indications. Bordeaux wine is a good example of the latter.
This is a key area of negotiations for companies such as Microsoft because of the issue of software piracy.
There is a separate path of negotiations on health issues, such as the relationship between intellectual property rights and access to medicines or public health.
Textiles and clothing: This is another big issue for developing countries. An earlier agreement mandated that quotas on textiles (the U.S. has one) be gradually eased until they are gone by 2005. The developed countries have been dragging their feet and the developing countries are worried. Too much may be left to the last years to be accomplished, so they want to speed things up.
This is a big deal. Textiles totaled $356 billion in 2000, 7.7 percent of all trade. The developing countries see this as an area where they can compete and an important step up the trade ladder.
Tough nuts to crack: Three issues remain difficult ones: trade and the environment, trade and investment, and labor standards. More work has been done on the environment issue so there might be some progress at Doha. On investment, the question is to start negotiating or to study the issue more. Labor standards are a difficult issue for some members, especially poor countries. They see imposing Western standards on their developing economies as a subtle way of keeping them down.