Are WTO Members Misinterpreting or Abandoning the Mandate of S&DT in the WTO?
It is a long-held view of developing countries in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) that some restrict-ions imposed by WTO trade rules and trade related agreements tend to hinder the adoption of local development policies that could lead to economic development. Flexibilities in the form of Special and Differential Treatment (S&DT) provisions in the implementation of WTO rules were proposed for developing countries. This flexibility is meant to provide policy space to pursue development policies. However, it is the view of developing countries that the application of S&DT provisions in the implementation of WTO rules is not practical. As a result, a WTO mandate to review S&DT provisions with a view to strengthening them and making them more precise, effective and operational was adopted by all WTO members.
This paper provides background on the S&DT mandate that is accorded to developing countries for implementing WTO Agreements. Furthermore, the paper analyses what some members may view as a misinterpretation and possibly the abandoning of the S&DT mandate broadly between developing and developed members. Discussions that evolved over the years resulted in a confusion that caused a stalemate in negotiations and led some members of the WTO to attempt to abandon the S&DT mandate. These members have proposed alternative approaches and a new agenda; however, this is without agreement by all WTO members.
The paper reflects the established positions of WTO members in the S&DT negotiations and provides an analysis of the views including the new agenda and approach on development envisaged by developed members. The study suggests an approach that calls for buy-in from all WTO members to ensure an inclusive outcome in S&DT negotiations that would lead to sustainable economic development for developing countries.
Readers are encouraged to quote and reproduce this material for educational, non-profit purposes, provided the source is acknowledged. All views and opinions expressed remain solely those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the views of tralac.