Operationalizing Special and Differential Treatment in the World Trade Organization: Game Over?
(2009) 15(3) Global Governance 343-357
15 Pages Posted: 5 Jun 2015
Date Written: April 2009
The notion of providing special and differential treatment to developing countries has a long history in the World Trade Organization, but some commentators continue to question its rationale and practical effectiveness in supporting development and integration into the multilateral trading system. In particular, while operationalizing special and differential treatment is one of the important tasks of negotiators in the ongoing Doha Round, some argue that this will not only be difficult, but in fact impossible to achieve. Doubtless, special and differential treatment cannot of itself solve the problems of the developing world, and relying too heavily on this kind of discrimination will ultimately disadvantage developing country WTO members. Nevertheless, in achieving a successful conclusion to the Doha Round, members must take greater account of the different needs of developing countries and adopt more concrete provisions in this regard than are currently contained in the Uruguay Round agreements. In general, WTO members themselves appear to have accepted this responsibility, despite the slow progress in this as in many other areas of the negotiations. Ideally, this process should involve in-depth economic analysis to identify measurable criteria for granting special and differential treatment to particular countries under specific provisions. If these criteria can be agreed and incorporated into the WTO agreements, no new independent bodies will be required to assess individual cases separate from the established WTO dispute settlement system.
Keywords: World Trade Organization, developing countries, international trade, international law, multilateral negotiations
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