Interests And Options Of Developing And Least-Developed Countries In A New Round Of Multilateral Trade Negotiations
Negotiating interests and options have to be identified against the background of the possible agenda of a new round. Several important elements of this agenda are codified in what is referred to as the "built-in agenda", including: (i) an assessment of the implementation of Uruguay Round Agreements (RAS); (ii) specific reviews of particular agreements that were mandated by the Uruguay Round; and, as the core of a new round, (iii) new negotiations on agriculture, GATS, and Trips. Possible further components of the agenda could be negotiations on trade and investment, competition policy, trade facilitation, transparency in government procurement, environmental and labour standards, and further liberalization of industrial tariffs, and textiles and clothing. Many developing and least-developed countries are reluctant to support such a comprehensive agenda, because they are still pre-occupied with difficult administrative, institutional and financial problems arising from the implementation of various RAS. They also have difficulties in articulating the strategies that could underpin the identification of their negotiating interests and options. Their preparation for a new round is likely to be mostly inadequate owing to a lack of human knowledge and institutional capacity that an effective participation in the WTO process requires. They will thus have to take decisions on complex issues that they may not have adequately analyzed and understood. But a new trade round will also present an important opportunity for developing countries to press for enhanced market access and to undo some of the damages imposed by the RAS dealing with rules and standards. They have taken on many mandatory obligations in exchange for non-binding and "best endeavour" concessions from the developed countries. Rebalancing this situation should be a major concern for both the developing and the least-developed countries. The new round should also offer the low-income countries an opportunity to be more pro-active in terms of defining its agenda, for instance in proposing multilaterally negotiated decisions regarding the criteria for categorizing WTO member countries, as well as the form and context of "special and differential treatment" for the developing and least-developed countries. This paper discusses the trade-strategy options of low-income countries, the areas of greatest interest to developing countries, as well as those that are to pose the greatest difficulties, the question of how developing countries can enhance the effectiveness of their participation in the new Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations, and also makes some suggestions on how to change WTO governance and management structures in order to ensure that the concerns of flow-income members are given greater prominence in the organization´s activities.
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