DEVELOPING country delegates, ranging from Brazil to India to the Philippines to South Africa, left the WTO Cancun Ministerial ebullient over the collapse of mid-term talks intended to advance the Doha Development Agenda. They reveled in the newfound power of the G-21 group, a coalition of mid-sized and small developing countries, to block consensus on a framework to conclude negotiations by 2005. Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, speaking on behalf of the 21-nation bloc, said the Cancun conference was a "political victory" for developing countries that showed unity in pressing their demands. Sir Ronald Sanders, the Antigua and Barbuda trade minister, captured the sentiment of many developing nations when he asserted that, had the poorer countries accepted the proposals of the rich at the WTO, "We would deserve our people's condemnation.... We would have condemned them to a life of perpetual underdevelopment." In fact, the exact opposite may be true: developing countries have the most to lose if the Doha Development Agenda is derailed through a misguided strategy of blockage and stalemate.
A Short History of Economic Conflict
FIFTY-SIX years after the inception of the 1947 General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the Cancun meeting will be remembered as one of the most consequential instances of North-South economic conflict in GATT/WTO history. Such confrontation is not new: it has occurred before in international fora, and even on a much larger scale, but never with much ultimate significance for the course of international relations. This is not the case, however, with the Cancun meeting.