Developing Countries in the WTO System: Applying Robert Hudec's Analysis to the Doha Round
18 Pages Posted: 10 Jul 2008
In his 1987 Developing Countries in the GATT System, Robert Hudec concluded that the identity of developing countries in the GATT system was primarily a matter of their demanding non-reciprocal and preferential treatment, developed countries responding grudgingly to those demands and that this situation had been unfruitful either to support developing country reforms or to discipline developed country restrictions aimed at developing countries. Hudec was pessimistic about the relationship becoming more productive, but his expression of despair offered a glimmer of hope: There are those who believe that the GATT has become so committed to the current policy that the only way to change it would be to start a new organization. A new organisation was started, the World Trade Organization, but has the WTO achieved what Hudec hoped a new organisation might? At the 1987-95 Uruguay Round, developing country leaders acted as Hudec had hoped. They used international rules and bindings as leverage to support their own internally-driven reforms; to overcome generations of accumulated protection, to lock in reforms against the backsliding that had undone previous reforms. Dealing with the Uruguay Round's unbalanced outcome and the overlapping implementation problem have shaped the Doha Round, but the negotiations have misconceived and mismanaged both issues. Rather than seeking to identify their real economics, the negotiations have gone back to the traditional idea of special and differential treatment. Perhaps the largest cost of this mismanagement is that in many developing countries the unilateral momentum for liberalisation has waned. To the extent that the Doha negotiations have drawn attention away from the domestic issues that were the basis of developing country liberalisation and enhanced the status of negotiators relative to the leaders who fought at home for reform they have contributed to that waning.
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