The unwillingness of developed nations to compromise on domestic agricultural policies has created an impasse in the Doha Development Round of WTO negotiations. Since its initiation in November 2001, the Doha round has principally focused harnessing the forces of globalization to help lift up the world’s poorest. While the talks have addressed a multitude of trade issues, ranging from industrial tariffs to non-tariff barriers in the global service market, agricultural policies have remained the primary sticking point. The failure of the Doha round of negotiations has drawn intense criticism of the WTO as a neo-liberal institution structured to serve the interests of the world’s most developed nations.
With regards to agriculture, critics have consistently condemned developed nations’ generous subsidies to domestic agriculture, which have created massive domestic surpluses in both the United States and European Union. Not only do these domestic surpluses crowd out potential supply from developing countries (often with significant comparative advantages in agricultural goods), but they also result in ‘dumping’ in the world market, driving down world prices, and thus further worsening the plight of the world’s poorest farmers. Worse yet, the motivations for agricultural subsidies are predominantly political, as struggling agricultural industries remain a burden on both developed nations’ economies and budgets. That said, the political clout of agricultural lobbies (imagine a presidential candidate campaigning against corn subsidies in Iowa) have kept the failed policies alive nonetheless.