Stating that special and differential treatment (S&DT) is a “non-negotiable right for all developing countries”, the grouping said “all members, no matter their trade share, must have an equal say in decision making” of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
India, South Africa, Bolivia, Cuba, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Ecuador, Tunisia and Malawi have suggested preservation of consensus decision making and reaffirming special provisions for developing countries to address asymmetries in global trade. This comes as the US and Canada, among other countries, have questioned the eligibility of developing countries for special provisions even as they propose rule making for issues such as e-commerce and investment, which don’t have the multilateral mandate.
“Our paper has development at its core, which was neglected in developed countries’ proposals. It highlights the asymmetries in WTO agreements, which no country can shy away from now,” said an official aware of the proposal made by the coalition, adding that more members are expected to join.
China, Canada, the US and Norway, too, have submitted reform proposals but experts said a coalition on S&DT is a key milestone for the developing nations.
S&DT are special provisions for developing countries which allow them more time to implement agreements and commitments, include measures to increase trading opportunities, safeguard their trade interests, and support to build capacity to handle disputes and implement technical standards.
The US has proposed withdrawal of these for emerging economies, which are members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, G20, classified as “high income” by the World Bank or account for more than 0.5% of global merchandise trade.
“No country can fight alone and the joint proposal is a win for developing members because it will draw other countries to join the coalition. This carries substantial political weight,” said a Delhi-based expert on WTO matters.
Highlighting the inequities in various global trade treaties, the nine countries said the Agreement on Agriculture has allowed developed countries to continue their high subsidies on agriculture products, including those exported to developing countries, impacting their small farmers’ livelihood and food security.