The Uruguay Round (UR) agreements were intended to usher in an international trade architecture in which all countries, developed and developing alike, would abide by the same rules – the notion that “one size fits all”.
This perception of the UR has considerable merit, since all countries were expected to participate in previous plurilateral agreements such as those on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures and in new agreements, such as that on Services. At the same time all the agreements, including the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA), contained many provisions on special and differential treatment (SDT) for developing countries – clearly acknowledging that one size does not fit all (WTO 2000b, 2002a).
Soon after the AoA was signed it came under considerable attack from developing country critics who felt that the it maintained an imbalance in trading rules; not only did it not favour developing countries but it was actually slanted against them. They argued that the SDT provisions were neither well conceived nor being implemented, and that the AoA continued the special and more favourable treatment of developed countries in the international trading system. It is fair to say that the AoA was always considered an interim agreement. It contained provisions for the initiation of new negotiations, which duly started in 2000. Now, in the aftermath of the Doha Ministerial which is supposed to result in a “Development Round”, it is time to look carefully at the SDT provisions of the AoA to ensure that they further the process of development.
The purpose of this article is to review SDT provisions in the AoA and other UR agreements that have a bearing on agriculture, and to make recommendations that make sense developmentally. Critical to the alleviation of poverty, and essential to any true Development Round, is progress in agriculture.
I do not review here all aspects of the AoA that have a bearing on developing countries, nor discuss the conceptual basis for SDT – a useful summary of which is contained in Christopher Stevens’s first article in this Bulletin (see also Michalopoulos 2001 and 2003). The next section focuses on an assessment of the implementation of SDT in the aftermath of the UR. The one after that reviews and evaluates the new proposals for SDT presented by developing countries in the agriculture negotiations. The final section contains conclusions and recommendations on approaches that may be useful in structuring SDT provisions in the new negotiations.
This article comes from the IDS Bulletin 34.2 (2003) Special and Differential Treatment in Agriculture: Proposals for a Development Round