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Bargaining over the Doha Development Agenda: Coalitions in the World Trade Organization

Working paper by Dr Amrita Narlikar, Centre of International Studies University of Cambridge, 2005

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What: Within the last years, developing countries have emerged as major actors within international trade negotiations. For developing countries with small markets and limited diplomatic resources, building coalitions has often proved to be the only instrument they have to improve their bargaining position in these negotiations. This paper provides an analysis of bargaining coalitions in the WTO. The first section examines the reasons behind the formation of coalitions in the WTO, and the problems that countries encounter in this process. The second section analyzes the development of coalitions involving developing countries from the GATT to the WTO. In section three the coalitions that have been active in the negotiations within the Doha Development Round are outlined. Finally, the fourth section examines the influence of these coalitions and their possible implications for the trade negotiation process. Who: For anyone dealing with international trade negotiations and the role of developing countries within these negotiations who is interested in the phenomenon of coalition building. How: Can be used as an excellent and precise additional reading in classes that are dealing with international trade negotiations within the WTO. Also as a very good reading in classes that aim at simulating negotiations since the importance of coalition building is underlined in the paper. A detailed table on coalitions and their memberships that evolved within the last 20 years of international GATT and WTO negotiations is provided. The paper can also serve as a starting point for further research on the main mutual needs and interests of the various coalitions.


Serie LATN Papers

Nª 34

Bargaining over the Doha Development Agenda:

Coalitions in the World Trade Organization

Dr Amrita Narlikar

Centre of International Studies
University of Cambridge


Bargaining over the Doha Development Agenda:

Coalitions in the World Trade Organization

Informal coalitions in the World Trade Organization (WTO) – be they among developed

countries or developing countries – go back to the days of the General Agreement on

Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Today, however, far more countries are willing to invest

diplomatic resources into the creation and maintenance of coalitions; additionally, at least

some coalitions involving developing countries have acquired unprecedented influence

and bargaining power that goes beyond the sum of resources of the individual members.

Coalitions in the GATT had formerly presented an area that received only limited

academic attention.1 This neglect lay partly in the fact that coalitions in the GATT were

informal; their lack of institutionalization made them much harder to trace. And perhaps

more importantly, few coalitions in the GATT had convincingly demonstrated that they

made a significant difference to outcomes. Developing countries, even while operating in

coalitions, had stood on the sidelines in the GATT, choosing to free-ride on the

concessions that were exchanged and demanding exceptions for themselves in the form

of special and differential (S&D) treatment. They managed to cause some minor,

occasional irritation to the developed world in the process, but there were no major

North-South battles in the GATT that compared to the North-South stalemate in the

UNCTAD and the United Nations General Assembly. This situation has changed

radically in recent times. Far too much is at stake in the WTO, and developing countries

have emerged as major actors on its stage. As the participation of developing countries

has increased in the WTO, so has the prominence of their coalitions and their

effectiveness in trade negotiations. Any doubts that policy-makers or academics might

have had about the utility of bargaining coalitions as a critical instrument for the weak

were firmly demonstrated at the Cancun Ministerial Conference, September 2003, where

the G20 and the G90 coalitions threatened to block consensus unless their collective

concerns were addressed. Contrary to predictions that these coalitions would collapse in

the endgame in the face of pressures and side-deals for their members, they held

1 Exceptions to this were Diana Tussie, The Less Developed Countries and the World Trading System: A Challege to
the GATT, London: Francis Pinter, 1987; John Whalley ed., Developing Countries and the World Trading System,
Vols. 1 and 2, London: Macmillan, 1989; Diana Tussie and David Glover eds., Developing Countries in World
Trade: Policies and Bargaining Strategies, Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1995; John Odell, Negotiating the World
Economy, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2000; Amrita Narlikar, International Trade and Developing Countries:
Bargaining Coalitions in the GATT & WTO, London: Routledge, 2003.


together. The Ministerial ended in stalemate. If such deadlocks are to be prevented in the

future, and the Doha Development Agenda successfully negotiated, bargaining coalitions

of developing countries will have to be taken seriously.

In this paper, I present an overview and analysis of bargaining coalitions in the

WTO. The first section explains the reasons behind the formation of coalitions, and

problems that countries encounter in this process. In the second section, I analyze the

evolution of coalitions involving developing countries from the GATT to the WTO. The

third section presents an overview of the coalitions that have been active in negotiating

the DDA. The fourth and concluding section examines the influence of these coalitions

and implications for the trade negotiation process.

1. Definition, Rationale, and Problems

Broadly defined, a coalition is “a set of governments that defend a common

position in a negotiation through explicit coordination.”2 The joint defence of a

negotiating position is likely to enhance the legitimacy of a proposal in majoritarian and

consensus-based institutions, which explains why even developed countries with large

markets seek allies in the WTO. For developing countries with small markets and limited

diplomatic resources, coalitions are often the only instrument that they have to improve

their bargaining position. The three, and perhaps most important, of these benefits are

outlined below.

First, small countries might fear reprisals should they attempt to block a proposal

advanced by developed countries when acting on their own; through collective action,

they can increase the costs of reprisals for developed countries and also emphasize the

legitimacy of their claims. Second, and equally important, is the role of coalitions in

facilitating division of labour and information exchange among developing countries.

Many representatives from developing countries argue that it is very difficult for them to

keep pace with the flurry of meetings in the WTO due to the small numbers of their staff

and limited resources. Even mere attendance of these multiple meetings is challenging,

let alone participation in an informed manner. Coalitions facilitate a research and

information exchange among members, and sometimes even a division of labour as

individual members attend particular meetings and are subsequently able to share

information about the proceedings with other allies who were absent from the meeting.

2 John Odell, Developing Countries and the Trade Negotiation Process, forthcoming in John Odell ed.,
“Negotiating Trade: Developing Countries in the WTO and NAFTA,” Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,


This sharing of information is particularly important in a member-driven organization

like the WTO, where the onus of effective participation and negotiation falls on the

members themselves. Given how high the stakes are in the Doha Development Agenda,

it is unsurprising that developing countries have begun to take coalitions more seriously

than ever before. Finally, by cultivating allies alternative to their chief opponents in the

multilateral trade negotiation process, developing countries improve their BATNA, that

is the Best Alternative to Negotiated Agreement, and can thereby pose at least some

credible threats to block.3

While the gains from belonging to a coalition are fairly obvious today, the costs

of coalition formation and maintenance continue to be high. Collective action – seldom

easy to organize – is rendered even more difficult given that free trade is a “near-public

good”;4 free-riders cannot be easily denied the hard-won gains that other countries have

negotiated under the Most Favoured nation rule. Once formed, the risk of defection

from a coalition persists. In the case of developing countries, this risk is especially high

given their individual vulnerabilities to pressures from developed countries across issue

areas. This idea is neatly captured in Robert Jervis’s representation of Rousseau’s Stag


“If the failure to eat that day – be it venison or rabbit – means that he will starve,
a person is likely to defect in the Stag Hunt even if he has a high level of trust in
his colleagues. Defection is especially likely if the others are also starving or they
know that he is.”5

Even within the sub-set of coalitions involving developing countries, some are more easy

to fragment than others. Coalitions that logroll a very broad range of demands and

priorities risk having their members bought off through side-deals. Coalitions that use a

strict distributive strategy also tend to attract more divide-and-rule tactics from the

outside party.6 The obvious solution to this problem of fragmentation would appear to

be twofold: build coalitions that have internal coherence (e.g. through an issue-specific

focus that is shared by all members) and use an integrative or mixed strategy rather than

3 Note that this same idea underlay attempts at South-South cooperation in the 1970s, and provides at least
one of the motivations behind new alliances like the IBSA (India-Brazil-South Africa initiative) and other
regional agreements.
4 Joseph Stiglitz, quoted in Valeria Constantini, Ricardo Crescenzi, Fabrizio de Filippis, and Luca Salvatici,
Bargaining Coalitions in the Agricultural Negotiations of the Doha Round, Working Paper CTN 99.2005,
Fondazione eni Enrico Mattei, July 2005, downloaded from
viewed on 3 October 2005.
5 Robert Jervis, Cooperation Under the Security Dilemma, World Politics, 30 (20, pp. 167-214.
6 Amrita Narlikar and John Odell, The Strict Distributive Strategy for a Bargaining Coalition: The Like-
Minded Group in the World Trade Organization, in John Odell ed., Negotiating Trade, 2006.


a distributive one. However, this solution generates another set of problems that is

specific to issue-based coalitions.

Coalitions that enjoy internal coherence by focusing on a very specific issue area

can be torn apart by other sectoral interests within the country that pull the negotiating

government in another direction to gain concessions on a different issue-area. Spotting

this problem in the 1980s, Colleen Hamilton and John Whalley wrote:

“…since countries typically wish to balance their positions across all the issues
that are of interest to them, they need to reserve some degree of flexibility to
allow for changes of positions on various issues as part of the negotiation process.
Such changes may well be inconsistent with agreements that countries have
entered into in order to join the coalition. These coalitions are, therefore, very
difficult to maintain.”7

A part of this problem can be countered by including only those countries in the group

which have economies with minimal diversification, so that the issue addressed by the

coalition overwhelmingly dominates all other sectors of the country’s economy.

However, single issue-focused economies are often also small ones (e.g. banana and

tourism exports, to somewhat caricature the Caribbean), leading to a new difficulty.

Coalitions involving such economies may be less prone to fragmentation due to diverse

interests pulling in different directions, but they also often lack sufficient external weight.

What we have then is a circular problem. Coalitions of developing countries are

especially prone to fragmentation. To correct this, developing countries could build more

issue-focused coalitions, but very issue-specific coalitions lack sufficient weight. To

improve their collective weight, they could involve other larger countries. But larger

countries often have diversified economies and multiple interest groups pulling in

different directions, rendering the issue-based coalition difficult to sustain, and prone to

fragmentation, bringing us back to the original problem. The next section shows how,

through adaptation and learning within the institution,8 many developing countries have

learnt to grapple with this problem.

2. The Process of Adaptation

7 Colleen Hamilton and John Whalley, Coalitions in the Uruguay Round, Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv, 125 (3),
1989, pp. 547-56.
8 On learning and adaptation, see Breslauer, George W. and Philip E. Tetlock (1991). Learning in US
and Soviet Foreign Policy, Boulder: Westview Press; for an application of these ideas to developing
countries in the GATT and the WTO, Andrew Hurrell and Amrita Narlikar, The New Politics of
Confrontation: Developing Countries at Cancun and Beyond, work in progress, 2005.


Bargaining coalitions can be classified along two ends of a spectrum: bloc-type

coalitions and issue-based alliances. The two differ from each other in two significant

ways. First, the cement binding the bloc-type coalitions is a set of ideas and identity that

go beyond the immediately instrumental; the latter, as the name suggests, are bound

together by a more focused and instrumental aim. Second, blocs usually bring together

like-minded countries, which adopt joint positions across issues and over time; issue-

based alliances, in contrast, often dissipate after the specific goal is achieved. Bloc-type

coalitions successfully address the problem of minimal external weight (discussed in the

previous section), but also run the risk of fragmentation as they lack internal coherence.

In contrast, issue-specific coalitions enjoy internal coherence, but are difficult to sustain

when large diversified economies with multiple sectoral interest groups are involved;

when they are restricted to smaller economies sharing the same interest, they end up

sacrificing external weight.9

Most coalitions of developing countries, in the GATT as well as other

organizations like the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, took the

form of blocs until the 1980s. Behind these blocs lay the idea of the Third World, a

shared history in colonialism, and a new ideology of development that looked towards

Import Substituted Industrialization and self-sufficiency rather than export-oriented

growth and free markets. These groupings – such as the Informal Group of Developing

Countries in the GATT and the G77 in the UNCTAD – combined a range of developing

countries of different sizes and from different regions, took defensive negotiating

positions and sought Special and Differential Treatment. The G10 coalition, which

emerged in the GATT in the pre-negotiation phase of the Uruguay Round, typified this

traditional, Third World-ist bloc-type diplomacy. The coalition, led by Brazil and India,

opposed the launch of a new trade round, and was even more vociferous in its

opposition to the inclusion of services in any trade negotiations within the GATT. It

was equally opposed to the inclusion of the other “new issues” of TRIPs and TRIMs,

and refused to make a compromise on any of these issues until its demands of standstill

and rollback of non-tariff barriers were met. Amidst this grand-standing, the coalition

also refused to engage with any other coalitions, and turned down overtures from other

developing countries to engage in shared research initiatives or draft joint proposals. The

successes of the group were limited. Not only was a new round launched, but services

9 Amrita Narlikar, International Trade and Developing Countries: Bargaining Coalitions in the GATT & WTO,
London: Routledge, 2003.


were included within the negotiating mandate (initially placed on a dual-track, but

subsequently included as part of the Single Undertaking).

In contrast to the G10, and working almost simultaneously with it, was the much

more successful informal grouping of Café au Lait. The Café au Lait began as a modest

research initiative led by Ambassador Felipe Jaramillo of Colombia that came to

encompass developed and developing countries. Its focus was explicitly on services.

After some initial meetings of the G10 and the Jaramillo group, the two groupings parted

ways. Eventually the Café au Lait came to include over 48 countries, and the draft

proposal by this group provided the basis for the Punta del Este declaration that

launched the Uruguay Round with services within it.

Taking heed of these contrasting experiences, as well as other international

economic pressures at the time and conversion to economic liberalization, developing

countries began to experiment with issue-based coalitions from the mid-1980s with a

more proactive agenda. The successes of the Cairns Group seemed to vindicate the

swing towards issue-based coalitions even further. Some of these coalitions included

both developed and developing countries, recognized the importance of research,

showed willingness to use more mixed strategies rather than hard-line distributive ones,

and were above all marked by internal coherence deriving from their issue-specific focus.

But the results that these coalitions yielded were mixed.

Most issue-based coalitions displayed minimal influence and short lives, and

typified the problems that were highlighted earlier. Countries would join multiple issue-

based coalitions, producing a spaghetti bowl of cross-cutting loyalties and frequent

defections. Those that were able to overcome this problem turned out to be very small

groups of small countries with minimal impact, and also eventually collapsed without

achieving their intended goals. Developing countries had paid a high price for their

knee-jerk infatuation with issue-based coalitions that soon became evident in the

imbalances of the Uruguay Round agreements negotiated under their auspices.

Based on the limited successes of both pure blocs and pure issue-based

coalitions, and adapting to them, developing countries began to mix their coalition

strategies by the time of the Doha Ministerial. By the time of the Cancun Ministerial, the

new coalition type had fully emerged.

Five new features typify these coalitions. First, learning from the failures of the

issue-based coalitions of the late 1980s-early 1990s, developing countries began to realize

that often something more than a very narrow issue-specific interest would be needed to


unite members and to facilitate the sustainability of the coalition. Additionally,

disillusionment with Uruguay Round agreements was high, and many developing

countries felt that they had been short-changed. As a result, many developing countries

came together in coalitions that were reminiscent of the old bloc-type. Often

membership was restricted to developing countries,10 and coalitions were united by either

a regional identity (e.g. African Group, Africa-Caribbean-Pacific or the ACP group, and

Caricom), or a shared grievance deriving from lower levels of development (e.g. the Least

Developed Countries or LDC group; and the group of Small and Vulnerable Economies)

or shared dissatisfaction with some of the provisions of the Uruguay Round agreements

(e.g. the Like-Minded Group or LMG on the problems of implementation for

developing countries, the TRIPs and Public Health Coalition in the inadequacies of the

provisions of TRIPs on access to medicine in developing countries; the G20 and G33 on

agriculture; the G90 which brought together the African, ACP, and the LDC groupings

on a broad range of concerns including Special and Differential Treatment). Most of

these coalitions successfully addressed the problem of sustainability as they were united

by ideas that went beyond the immediate, narrow, sector-specific interest; they were also

able to address the problem of minimal external weight.

Second, deriving from the advantages learnt by the Café au Lait and the Cairns

Group, these coalitions often concentrated on a specific grievance, even while being

united by a bigger idea and changing the focus once the particular grievance had been

addressed. For instance, the LMG emerged as a coalition at the 1996 Singapore

Ministerial and focused on opposing an inclusion of the four “Singapore issues”

(transparency in government procurement, competition policy, trade facilitation, and

trade and investment), but focused on the problems of implementation in the run-up to

the Doha Ministerial of 2001. Similarly, the ACP grouping at the Doha Ministerial

invested its energies into lobbying for the waiver that was required for its trade

preferences from the EU under the Cotonou Agreement to continue; by the time of the

Cancun Ministerial, the ACP had become a proactive constituent of the G90 highlighting

the broader problems of under-development and poverty that its members faced. The

deliberate focus on a particular issue-area at a particular time lent greater coherence to

these coalitions than ever enjoyed by their bloc-type predecessors.

10 The Friends of Fish group at the Doha Ministerial was one of the few exceptions to this; the Cairns
Group continues to be another although it has been far less active or influential in comparison to its days
in the Uruguay Round.


Third, learning from their experiences in the Uruguay Round, most coalitions of

developing countries invest considerable effort in research and information exchange

among members. Representatives from developing countries stress such an information

exchange as a primary benefit of belonging to a coalition. And true to these claims, draft

proposals from coalitions usually show a qualitative change from the rhetorical positions

and laundry-list of demands that their predecessors had made prior to the Uruguay


Fourth, while the coalitions in themselves have recorded a change in recent times,

equally interesting is the relationship among these coalitions. In the drama that had

surrounded the G10 and the Café au Lait in the Uruguay Round, the relationship among

coalitions (even those involving developing countries) was conflictual. In remarkable

contrast to this were the coalitions at Cancun, in which an explicit effort was made to

coordinate the positions among the different coalitions involving developing countries.

“Alliances of Sympathy” emerged; when coalitions found that they could not support the

position of their counterparts, they made an effort to at least not openly contradict and

oppose each other.

Finally, the blocs and issue-based alliances of the pre-Uruguay and Uruguay

Round were entirely inter-state coalitions. In some issue areas, especially in the developed

countries, particular interest groups would try to influence the positions of their

governments. These positions in turn would eventually permeate into the negotiation

process as well as coalition alignments. But the role of civil society in all these

developments was minimal. Developing countries remained largely suspicious of any

civil society involvement until the mid-late 1990s. However, by the time of the Doha

Ministerial, they had recognized that they could find influential allies in Northern NGOs

over some issues. The TRIPs and public health coalition at Doha demonstrated the

utility of such alliances most visibly.11 At Cancun too, several NGOs came out with

drafts supporting the positions of the G20. Additionally, in coalitions as well as

individually, many developing countries began to consult more frequently with NGOs as

well as international organizations and think-tanks, making use of their research

initiatives in particular areas as well as relying on them for enhancing the legitimacy and

public support for their position.

11 John Odell and Susan Sell, Reframing the Issue: The WTO Coalition on Intellectual Property and Public
Health, 2001, in Odell ed., Negotiating Trade, 2006.


3. Negotiating the Doha Development Agenda

The coalitions that began negotiating the DDA have shared most or all of the

features discussed in the previous section. The coalitions themselves are too numerous to

allow a full and detailed discussion in this paper. However, in this section I discuss some

of the prominent coalitions involving developing countries in the context of the DDA. I

have divided the discussion into three sections to correspond with the three phases of

the DDA so far.

Phase 1: Doha Ministerial Conference, 2001

It is noteworthy that in the run-up to the Doha Ministerial Conference, hoping to

influence the agenda-setting process, many new coalitions of developing countries

emerged. Many developing countries had, in fact, opposed the launch of a new round;

through a new round, it was feared that the developed countries would end up making

developing countries pay twice over for the concessions that they had already paid for

through the Uruguay Round bargain (from which they had still not accrued the promised

benefits due to the problems of implementation). Some accounts present considerable

anecdotal evidence of the coercive tactics that were used to bring dissidents in line with

the “consensus” on the launch of the Doha Development agenda;12 interviews conducted

by this author also reveal some evidence of such pressures. That said, however, within

the (significant) constraints of the pressure to the launch a new trade round, developing

countries were able to exercise considerable influence in the making of the DDA.

The impact of coalitions of developing countries is evident in several sections of

the Doha Declarations. The attention that the main declaration pays to the concerns of

the small economies (paragraph 35, 36) and the LDCs (paragraphs 42, 43, and references

throughout) is a product of the lobbying efforts of the Small and Vulnerable Economies

Group and the LDC group respectively. The Decision on the waiver for the ACP-EC

Partnership Agreement was a direct result of the efforts of the ACP and African groups,

while the breakthrough Declaration on TRIPs and Public Health would not have been

agreed to had it not been for the TRIPs and public health coalition. Even the LMG,

though it had lost on its signature issue of preventing the launch of a new round until its

concerns were met, got paragraph 12 in the main declaration as well as the Decision on

Implementation Related Issues and Concerns. Further, through the collective of many of

12 Fatoumata Jawara and Aileen Kwa, Behind the scenes at the WTO: The Real World of International Trade
Negotiations, London: Zed Books, 2003.


these coalitions, S&D finds frequent occurrence through the declaration. Mention of

development occurs not just in the name of the new round, but as a quick word check

suggests, variations of the word “develop” (including development, developing, develop)

appear 206 times through the declarations. These are no insignificant gains.

It is important however to bear in mind that the declarations do little more than

define the mandate and suggest best endeavour practices to facilitate development. What

modalities are adopted, how the negotiations actually proceed, and what developing

countries actually end up with in the process is still up for grabs.

Phase II: Cancun Ministerial, 2003

At least some of the coalitions that were active at the Cancun Ministerial had

already appeared at the Doha, if not before. These included the LMG, the African

Group, the ACP, the LDC, and the Small and Vulnerable Economies. All these coalitions

opposed the inclusion of the Singapore issues, emphasized the importance of S&D; the

ACP, LDC, and African groups were additionally concerned about the erosion of

preferences. The Cotton Group emerged at Cancun itself, and found support in the

other coalitions as well as NGOs; the Core Group emerged at the same time to resist the

inclusion of the Singapore issues. However, agriculture was the issue over which swords

were drawn between the North and the South. Leading developing countries on

agriculture was the G20.

The G20 arose as a reaction to the EU-US text on agriculture, which was seen as

highly inadequate by developing countries with an aggressive and proactive liberalizing

interest in agriculture as well as those with a defensive, protective interest.13 Brazil and

India drafted the initial text together, and were joined in their counter-proposal by

Argentina, China, South Africa and a large group of other developing countries. By the

time of the Cancun Ministerial, the group included 22 countries. The mix of countries

that had come together in this group was not obvious. The most obvious fracture line in

the group lay between those members which were also Cairns Group members and

sought agricultural liberalization, vs. defensive members led by India that were still not in

a position to open up there domestic markets or cut their domestic subsidies. Despite

these differences, though, the two sets of countries came together in the G20. In keeping

with the agenda of the Cairns Group members, they proposed radical cuts in the

13 Amrita Narlikar and Diana Tussie, The G20 at the Cancun Ministerial: Developing Countries and their
Evolving Coalitions, World Economy, 27 (7) July 2004, pp. 947-966.


domestic and export subsidies of the developed countries as well as greater market

access. To meet the demands of their more defensive coalition allies, however, they

argued for a differentiated formula on market access for developing countries depending

on their ability to contribute to the process of improved market access, and proposed

S&D measures for developing countries in all three pillars.

The other new coalition on agriculture, also involving developing countries, was

the G33 on Strategic Products and Special Safeguard Mechanism. Unlike the G20, the

G33 comprised a membership of countries that had an overall defensive interest in

agriculture, and whose agricultural sectors were reliant on a small set of specialized

products. Led by Indonesia and the Philippines, the group proposed that developing

countries be allowed to self-designate certain “strategic products”, which would not be

subject to any new commitments or obligatory tariff reductions. The group also

proposed a “special safeguard mechanism” that could be used by developing countries to

protect their domestic markets against import surges.

These coalitions stood firm throughout the ministerial, cementing their own

positions and also supporting each other, defying predictions that they would collapse

before the ministerial ended. The immediate cause for the collapse of the ministerial

process was the showdown over the Singapore issues on the final day of the conference.

The coalitions of the LDCs, the ACP, and the African Group came together into the

G90, and threatened to walk out if any of the Singapore issues were included in the

negotiating process. In voicing this threat, they had the backing of the other coalitions of

developing countries. The ministerial had ended in deadlock.

Phase III: Post Cancun

The lines of confrontation that had emerged at Cancun have persisted after it as

the problems with agriculture have continued,14 and new ones are also beginning to

emerge. After protracted negotiation, the July Package was finally arrived at in 2004, in

which three of the Singapore issues were finally taken off the agenda. Trade facilitation

was retained, but even here it has been agreed that developing countries will not be

required to implement the final agreement if they lack essential infrastructure or capacity

for implementation. Cotton has been placed on a separate fast track. The annex on

agriculture, also a part of the July Package, presents a “tiered formula” on domestic

14 Agriculture Negotiations at the WTO: Post-Cancun Outlook Report, Geneva: ICTSD, November 2003;
also see www.wto.org for a full update.


support (while allowing developing countries lower tariff reduction coefficients as well as

longer implementation periods). The draft makes the right noises on reduction of export

subsidies, and also allows both developed and developing countries to designate certain

“sensitive” products which will be subject to lower tariff reductions. Much has been

made of the promise of a 20% cut in export subsidies by developed countries as “down


But problems in agriculture persist, as do the dividing lines between the North

and South and their respective coalitions. Given that bound tariff levels are much higher

than applied levels, the down payment might amount to nothing; improved market

access will depend critically on which products are designated as sensitive products.

Details of formulae and dates still have to be decided, and much can still go wrong.

Confrontational coalitions have become even stronger. The G20 for instance, contrary to

the predictions at Cancun has persisted despite the defection of a few smaller members,

has held ministerial level meetings in the capitals of some member countries, and is

attempting to expand its agenda beyond agriculture by drawing direct linkages with Non-

Agricultural Market Access. It faces opposition not only from the EU and the US, but

also the G10 – a coalition of other developed countries and some transition economies –

with its defensive non-trade concerns.

Further, the July Package was arrived at through consultation among the “Five

Interested Parties” -- Australia, Brazil, EU, India, and US. Brazil and India had attempted

to keep their G20 allies informed about the consultations, but many non-members felt

that they had been marginalized in the process. Differences are also simmering over

S&D, with the larger developing countries resisting the creation of a new category of

more advanced developing countries that will not enjoy S&D provisions. While

developing countries have made a special effort to avoid overt rifts so far, it is to be

expected that differences will emerge among and within coalitions as the DDA moves

from its agenda-setting and modalities stages to the actual negotiation process. New

alignments are likely to emerge once negotiators are able to devote issues other than

agriculture, including non-agricultural market access.

4. Conclusion and Implications

In this paper, I have analyzed the origins and evolution of bargaining coalitions

involving developing countries in the GATT and the WTO. I have argued that based on

a long process of institutional adaptation, the coalitions of today are considerably


different from their predecessors and better able to handle the problems of internal

coherence and external weight. They have proven to be more sustainable than their issue-

based predecessors, and more focused and coherent than the old bloc-type coalitions. As

their performance in the Doha process shows, they have also been relatively more

successful than their predecessors. The fact this new round is a development round

provides testimony to their influence; they have also been reasonably successful in setting

the agenda of the new round. However, these new coalitions also suffer from two

potential risks.

First, while the recent successes of developing country coalitions have been

unprecedented – both in terms of holding together as well as influencing agenda-setting

– they have encountered what might be considered to be the easier stage of the

negotiation process. It remains to be seen if they will be as successful when the actual

negotiation process begins. For instance, it has been easy for the middle-income

developing countries to express their support of the S&D principle; but now that

discussions on how the benefits of S&D will be distributed, rifts are beginning to emerge.

Similarly, though the G90 and the G20 have so far worked in harmony, even the

moderated liberalization of the G20 that is seeking radical export cuts from the

developed countries is likely to have be contradictory to the agenda of food-importing

economies. Further, much of the drama that has surrounded the Doha process so far has

been over agriculture. Even if agriculture is resolved reasonably amicably, other issues

areas will throw up new priorities. Considerable advance planning on the part of

developing countries will be necessary to pre-empt potential defections from these


Second, it is true that recent years have shown the bargaining strength of

developing country coalitions. But these coalitions operate in an institutional context that

is torn by North-South antagonism and high levels of distrust. A strong South dealing

with a strong North may be able to extract symmetric, mutually beneficial agreements.

But a strong South dealing with a strong North can also be the perfect recipe for

recurrent deadlock. To ensure that the negotiations do not stall, both the North and

South will need to devise new mechanisms. These could involve a more careful use of

distributive tactics, willingness to mix strategies depending on the stage of the

negotiations, issuing threats only when they are likely to be seen as credible ones, and


greater communication and signalling.15 For developing countries, now fully involved in

the negotiation processes of the WTO, the stakes are too high to lose.

15 Amrita Narlikar, Breaking the Deadlock: Signalling Mechanisms in North-South Trade Negotiations,
paper under review.


Coalitions and their Memberships

Table 1

G10 Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Egypt, India, Nigeria,
Nicaragua, Tanzania, Peru, Yugoslavia

Café au Lait
(initially the

track/G20, joined
subsequently by

the G9)

G20 = Bangladesh, Chile, Colombia, Hong Kong,
Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Malaysia, Mexico,
Pakistan, Philippines, Romania, Singapore, Sri
Lanka, South Korea, Thailand, Turkey, Uruguay,
Zambia, Zaire
G9 = Australia, Austria, Canada, Finland, Iceland,
New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland

Punta del Este


Cairns Group* Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile,
Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Indonesia,
Malaysia, New Zealand, Paraguay, Philippines,
South Africa, Thailand, Uruguay (as it exists today)

Like Minded

Cuba, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Honduras,
India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka,
Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe + Jamaica and
Kenya as observers

TRIPs and Public

African Group + Bangladesh, Barbados, Bolivia,
Brazil, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti,
Honduras, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Pakistan,
Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand,

ACP* Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize,
Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi,
Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad,
Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of
Congo, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic,
Fiji, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Guinea,
Guinea Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Kenya,
Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania,
Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria,
Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, St Kitts and Nevis, St
Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Senegal,
Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Suriname,
Tanzania, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda,
Zambia, Zimbabwe

LDC* Angola, Bangladesh, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi,
Cambodia, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo,
Djibouti, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Haiti,
Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Maldives, Mali,
Mauritania, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Niger,
Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands,
Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia.



African Group* Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi,
Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad,
Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Côte


d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Egypt, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana,
Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho,
Madagascar, Malawi, Mail, Mauritania, Mauritius,
Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria,
Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa,
Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda,
Zambia, Zimbabwe

Small and


Barbados, Dominica, Fiji, Grenada, Jamaica,
Lesotho, Mauritius, Papua New Guinea, Solomon
Islands, St Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago

Caricom* Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica,
Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis, St
Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and
Tobago, Suriname

G20 Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Cuba, Ecuador,
Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan,
Paraguay, Philippines, South Africa, Thailand,
Venezuela (original signatories also included
Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, and

G33 Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Benin,
Botswana, China, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba,
Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti,
Honduras, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kenya,
Korea, Mauritius, Madagascar, Mongolia,
Mozambique, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan,
Panama, Peru, Philippines, St Kitts and Nevis, St
Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Senegal, Sri
Lanka, Suriname, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago,
Turkey, Uganda, Venezuela, Zambia, Zimbabwe
(actually 42 members)

G90 ACP + African Group + LDCs (actually 64

Cotton Initiative Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali




G10 Bulgaria, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Korea,
Liechtenstein, Mauritius, Norway, Switzerland,
Chinese Taiepei

Source: www.wto.org and Amrita Narlikar, International Trade and Developing Countries: Bargaining Coalitions in
the GATT & WTO, London: Routledge, 2003.

* = Coalitions that were also active at the Cancun Ministerial