Analytical Note, July 2003

Processes and the Cancun Ministerial Conference.

Developing countries need to translate numerical advantage in the WTO into negotiating and bargaining leverage by working together and speaking out, as much as possible, with a common position on various issues. It is only through united action and positions that developing countries can, in a power-based negotiating context such as the WTO, ensure that their concerns are effectively reflected and taken into account.

Furthermore, developing countries need to determine what their negotiating bottom line is – i.e. what their best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA) is – for each of the various negotiating areas. Clearly, if the potential negotiated outcome can be reasonably construed as eventually making developing countries worse off than before negotiations started, then perhaps the BATNA is simply to walk away from the negotiations.

In the main, except for specific areas of interest in agriculture (i.e. elimination of agricultural subsidies and increased market access for developing country agricultural goods), services (mode 4 market access), implementation issues, and S&D, developing countries are not demandeurs in these negotiations. In fact, in most of the areas in which they are currently negotiating (i.e. market access for non-agricultural goods, agricultural market access, services, environment) or are being asked to negotiate (i.e. Singapore issues), it is the developed countries that are the demandeurs.

However, there is a lack of positive movement thus far in the areas of interest to developing countries, while the areas of interest to developed countries are being pushed forward hard through a combination of hard negotiating and other pressures in the WTO and political and economic pressure being exerted outside of the WTO. It therefore stands to reason that in general, and given the way that the negotiations are currently being managed, the outcomes of these negotiations are most likely to be favorable to the economic interests of the demandeurs (developed countries) rather to developing countries.

A transparent, inclusive, and participatory preparatory process leading up to the Ministerial Conference, as well as the process to be used during such Ministerial Conference, are of primary importance in ensuring that developing countries stand a reasonable chance of having their perspectives be included in the negotiated outcomes from the Conference.


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