The agreements that
emerged from the 198694 Uruguay Round the WTOs agreements are
now five years old and a new round of negotiations is about to be launched in Seattle.
However, five years after the agreements took effect, developing countries still
experience difficulties with their implementation.
On the one hand,
developing countries lack the financial and human resources to fulfil their commitments
such as the complex requirements of the intellectual property (TRIPS) agreement. On the
other hand, they say developed countries have failed to implement the agreements in a way
that would benefit developing countries trade.
differential (S&D) provisions are included in all the WTO agreements. There are two
- more flexible terms
within specified time limits: for example, longer transition periods, smaller commitments
(for example the commitments on agriculture); and
- clauses which say in
broad terms that developed countries should help developing countries in specific areas
(such as technology transfer under intellectual property protection) but without defining
exactly what action is needed.
In other words, the
provisions are designed both to help developing countries implement the agreements and to
accentuate the benefits they might enjoy. However, five years later, developing countries
feel that these provisions have not served their purpose. They argue that the more
specific S&D provisions of category (a) are usually insufficient and that the broader
requirements of category (b) are too vague and often ignored.
For this reason, the
issue of implementation promises to be prominent in Seattle. Developing countries are
eager to see the Ministerial Declaration include language to correct perceived oversights
in the Uruguay Round texts. Indeed, many developing countries argue that they are owed
this redressal of the Uruguay Rounds results before a new round can start.
with Uruguay Round requirements
In their proposals to
the General Council (part of the process of drafting the Seattle Ministerial declaration),
developing countries have identified several difficulties they face in implementing the
WTO agreements. Most frequently mentioned are the following:
countries, except the least developed, have to implement the Trade-Related Aspects of
Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement by 1 January 2000. (Least-developed
countries have until 1 January 2006.) For most, this means amended or new
intellectual property legislation and new or more effective means of enforcement.
countries argue that five years is not enough for such a radical change and have proposed
that this transition period be extended. Some say that the five year implementation period
granted to them was chosen haphazardly rather than on the basis of their level of
development. These countries say they should be allowed to apply different degrees of
intellectual property protection, depending on the level of development.
Others envisage the
inclusion in the TRIPS Agreement of additional commitments, for example in relation to the
transfer of technology and the protection of geographical indications.
Investment Measures (TRIMS) Agreement deals with policies that are considered inconsistent
with GATT. An illustrative list includes such measures as minimum local content and trade
balancing requirements. Developing countries have to eliminate inconsistent measures by
1 January 2000, least-developed countries by 1 January 2002.
countries say there is too little time for too many changes. They would also like to
retain the flexibility to choose investment promotion policies that they consider
necessary to fulfil their developmental needs, including some of those listed as
inconsistent with GATT.
developing countries say they missed the boat: they were unable to notify some of their
investment measures in time (they had to do this immediately) and they cannot now apply
and phytosanitary measures and technical barriers to trade
phytosanitary (SPS) measures deal with animal and plant health and safety, and food
safety. The Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreement deals with other technical
standards. Both agreements say that members have to take into account the special needs of
developing countries when they prepare these regulations. However, developing countries
feel they are excluded from the creation of international standards and are often expected
to comply with standards that go beyond their technical ability or financial capacity.
market access for developing countries exports
say market access has not met expectations for their exports in two areas: agriculture and
textiles. They recognize that the letter of the agreements has not been violated, but they
feel that the spirit of these agreements has not been honoured.
countries complaints focus on some extremely high tariffs, tariff escalation (higher
tariffs on processed goods than on raw materials, which penalizes processing in exporting
countries), the difficulties in gaining access to markets through tariff quotas and the
trade-distorting effects of subsidies. They are calling for lower barriers on agricultural
goods that they export.
Agreement on Textiles and Clothing does two things. Over a 10-year period, it integrates
the sector into GATT rules, and as part of that process it phases out quotas. Developing
countries complain that although 33 per cent of trade has been integrated as committed,
only a few quotas have actually been removed. They add that what little market access has
resulted from the implementation of the agreement has been cancelled out by measures taken
by the importing countries, such as transitional safeguards, anti-dumping actions and
discriminatory rules of origin.
outcome from Seattle
countries have submitted specific wish-lists to the WTO General Council. These include:
- the creation of a
working group to look at implementation issues
- converting all S&D
provisions into concrete commitments
- tighter restrictions on
the use of anti-dumping measures
- allowing developing
countries more flexibility in applying food, animal and plant health and safety (SPS)
measures to their products
- enabling developing
countries to participate more in bodies which set food safety and technical standards
- speeding up the
integration of textiles and clothing products into GATT rules
- allowing developing
countries more time and greater flexibility to implement the agreements on investment
measures (TRIMs) and intellectual property (TRIPS)
- allowing developing
countries greater flexibility to subsidize agriculture
- tighter restrictions in
the use of subsidies by developed countries in agriculture
These issues could be
up for discussion in Seattle or in the negotiations that follow.