With all the fading hopes over the Doha Round, the contribution of the WTO might be apt to be ignored or discounted.

The Doha Round might have stalled — most probably for ever — but the significant contribution of trade negotiators over the years in narrowing down differences cannot be ignored and will most certainly count in future negotiations.

In fact, over the past few months, trade negotiators meeting continuously at the WTO headquarters in Geneva have been striving very hard for a consensus on a few critical issues.

It is such largely unpublicised efforts rather than any vocal political support that had kept the hopes alive.

However, the fact remains that in several ways the world's major trading nations have been moving away from the spirit of multilateral trade. For instance, there has been a strong preference among countries, India included, for bilateral “free trade” agreements, which generally take less time to forge and promise almost immediate results.

However, it is not in the best interests of either trade or individual countries that a slew of bilateral pacts should dominate world trade. Going by the experience these pacts lead to hegemony by the rich countries over the poor as well discrimination and distortion in trade policies.

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