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Global Trade Governance and the Challenges of African Activism in the Doha Development Agenda Negotiations

Lee, D (2012) Global Trade Governance and the Challenges of African Activism in the Doha Development Agenda Negotiations. Global Society, 26 (1). pp. 83-101. ISSN 1360-0826

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Abstract

This article develops a bottom-up approach to global trade governance and explains how subordinate states are able to develop resistance strategies to top-down processes in the World Trade Organisation (WTO). It highlights the growing activism and influence of African states in the global governance of international trade through a case study of the involvement of African states in the current Doha Development Agenda (DDA) negotiations. In so doing, it presents new evidence of the role played by non-dominant states in shaping and contesting the rules and practices of contemporary global trade governance. The article also provides theoretical insights into the source of African resistance in the WTO by drawing attention to the role of discourse in contemporary global trade governance. In this case study the analysis focuses in particular on how subordinate African actors make use of prevailing discourses of development to hold major powers and the WTO to account for their public commitment to negotiate new trade rules that will deliver development. It underlines the extent to which subordinate actors tend to use what is available to them—in this case the discourses of dominant actors—to challenge existing power structures. The conclusion reached is that African resistance creates an African dilemma; while resistance to existing power processes means that African member states can no longer be ignored in WTO negotiations, it also means that the WTO as a forum for global governance is less effective since consensus-based agreement becomes more difficult to achieve. And the less effective the WTO is in multilateral trade governance, the more member states—and in particular dominant states—ignore the WTO and seek bilateral and regional alternatives in order to secure market opening.

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