Analytical Note, January 2017

The WTO’s Special and Differential Treatment Negotiations (Paragraph 44)

Paragraph 44 of the 2001 Doha Ministerial Declaration mandates the ‘strengthening’ of Special and Differential Treatment (S&D) provisions in the WTO Agreement, and making them ‘more precise, effective and operational’. This Note tracks the evolution of these negotiations from the start of the Doha Round in 2001 until the Nairobi Ministerial in December 2015.

After the 2013 Bali Ministerial Conference, developing countries led in particular by the Africa Group, in coordination with other developing countries, started a process in which they identified the most relevant S&D provisions. Consequently, the G-90 (Africa Group; Least Developed Countries; and the ACP – African, Caribbean and Pacific countries) submitted a package of 25 proposals to the Committee on Trade and Development in Special Session (CTD-SS) with a view to achieving an outcome on the Doha Declaration’s paragraph 44 in the 2015 Nairobi Ministerial Conference.

Despite immense efforts by the G90, no outcome was achieved in Nairobi as what was offered by developed countries was not meaningful. The S&D negotiations from the Doha mandate remains pending. This Note highlights certain G90 S&D proposals that can support industrialization and developing countries’ on-going regional integration efforts.

Moving forward, it is imperative that developing countries continue, as in the past, to push strongly for meaningful outcomes on paragraph 44 of the Doha Ministerial Declaration. A major difficulty is that there is a huge gap between what developed countries have so far been willing to offer (often a reiteration of rights already provided for in the agreements or in some cases even a retraction of existing rights) and outcomes that would be meaningful.

What would constitute meaningful outcomes in these negotiations? The mandate in paragraph 44 itself – making the existing S&D provisions ‘more precise, effective and operational’ provides the basis to judge whether the outcomes of the negotiations are satisfactory or not. The outcome of these negotiations should be WTO rules that give space for economic actors to grow local production capacities, thereby energising local, domestic, and regional markets and economies, and improving the quality of employment and living standards.

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