Pacific Pause: The Rhetoric of Special & Differential Treatment, the Reality of WTO Accession
45 Pages Posted: 28 Sep 2009 Last revised: 6 Aug 2010
Date Written: September 21, 2009
Tonga in 2006 and Vanuatu in 2001 suspended the process of their accession to the WTO just before they were set to join the organisation. Given the length and cost of the accession process, the decision of these countries to suspend their accession is both surprising and unique in the history of the WTO. This article examines certain key problems arising from the WTO accession process in connection with development needs in the Pacific. In particular, it considers the potential barriers and benefits that Small Island Developing States (SIDS), such as Tonga, Vanuatu, and Samoa encounter when joining the WTO. In light of the benefits that these states could receive from WTO membership this article then examines potential reasons why Tonga and Vanuatu suspended their accession. The first reason is the demanding and lengthy nature of the accession process itself. The second is the limited way in which the principle of “special and differential treatment” operates in practice. The article concludes with a discussion of potential reforms to the WTO that could address the problems facing SIDS that wish to join the organisation.
Keywords: WTO, Accession, Tonga, Vanuatu, Samoa
JEL Classification: K00, K33, K39, K49
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation