TRADE AND DEVELOPMENT
Through the proposals, the G90 seeks to operationalize existing special and differential provisions and make them more precise and effective. This includes establishing implementation timelines, guaranteeing technical assistance and capacity-building programmes, and ensuring that governments can pursue policies to meet their development objectives.
“The more special and differential treatment is seen or labelled as “divisive”, the less we are allowing ourselves to think and engage creatively and move forward to solution-oriented outcomes,” Ambassador Hassan said at the 18 June meeting. “I reiterate my call for political will and flexibility from all sides and I would call for pragmatism to find solutions together. As your chair, I can only facilitate your conversation.”
The WTO’s agreements contain over 150 provisions for developing countries and LDCs. They include access to technical assistance activities and longer transition periods to implement agreements and decisions.
Several developing countries shared the difficulties they encounter due to cumbersome procedures while invoking the arrangements for developing countries contained in Article XVIII of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. The G90 proposals seek to simplify the procedures while also taking into account countries' financial constraints, they said. The modifications or withdrawal from WTO commitments proposed would be temporary rather than permanent exemptions, the G90 explained. The objective, they said, is to help advance the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, while also helping to correct the imbalance in countries' capacities to recover from the COVID-19 crisis.
While other delegations expressed support for helping developing countries — particularly LDCs — recover from the crisis and play a more active role in world trade, some members continued to urge the G90 to come up with a new approach. One member said that some of the G90 proposals might in fact undermine the WTO's multilateral nature and would not assist developing countries in their post-pandemic economic recovery, recalling that extensive discussions have already taken place over recent years and that concerns remain.
A suggestion was made to gear efforts towards concluding WTO negotiations where tangible results are foreseen, such as on fisheries subsidies, given the limited resources and little time left before the 12th Ministerial Conference, scheduled from 30 November to 3 December 2021 in Geneva. In response, the proponents recalled that the negotiations on special and differential treatment were mandated by Paragraph 44 of the 2001 Ministerial Declaration, and that it was therefore necessary to continue the discussions, particularly in light of the importance of these negotiations for developing countries.
“I will now consider carefully all that was discussed in the course of the five meetings with a view to considering what the next steps might be,” concluded the chair, encouraging all delegations to do the same. She said: “As difficult as these negotiations have been, I believe it is in the interest of members — and the Organization — to find a way to move forward. I would also stress once again that it is in the hands of members to determine a new approach and a way forward in the committee.”
It is time for the Special Session of the Trade and Development Committee (the Committee's negotiating body) to be contributing positively to the conversation on special and differential treatment that is taking place in other WTO bodies, she added.
The first meeting in the series took place on 8 February. Subsequent meetings were held on 12 March, 27 April and 17 May.
More information on special and differential treatment can be found here.
The latest analysis of existing special and differential treatment provisions by the WTO Secretariat can be found here.