At the Fourth WTO Ministerial Conference in Doha, Qatar, in November 2001, Trade Ministers adopted a Ministerial Declaration setting out a broad work programme for the WTO for the coming years. Known as the Doha Development Agenda, the work programme incorporates negotiations and other activities to address the challenges facing the trading system and the needs and interests of the diverse WTO membership, particularly those of developing and least developed countries.

The extensive work programme which has evolved since 2001 includes negotiations in specific areas: agriculture, services, market access for non-agricultural products, trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights, trade facilitation, WTO rules, improvements to the Dispute Settlement Understanding and trade and environment. It also includes high-priority aspects that do not involve negotiations, such as: electronic commerce; small economies; trade; debt and finance; trade and transfer of technology; technical co-operation and capacity building; least developed countries; and special and differential treatment.

Progress on the Doha Development Agenda has been mixed, including the disappointment of the 2003 Cancun Ministerial Conference. And the negotiations have extended beyond the original time frame through January 2005. WTO members achieved a breakthrough in July 2004, when they took decisions on key issues to ensure continued momentum. Framework agreements are now in place for the negotiations on agriculture (including cotton) and non-agricultural market access. Negotiations have been launched on trade facilitation, and WTO Members have agreed that the Singapore issues—investment, competition policy and transparency in government procurement—will not be negotiated during the Doha Round. Recommendations have been adopted to advance the negotiations on services. WTO members have also agreed to a package on development issues and reaffirmed their commitment to fulfilling the development dimension of the Doha Agenda.