“Developing” Countries’ Arrested Development
GENEVA – The World Trade Organization and global climate-change negotiations face comparable challenges. Both need to accommodate different levels of development and match them with appropriate obligations. Even the jargon is similar: “common but differentiated responsibility” in the climate-change talks, and “special and differential” in the WTO.
Similarly, the classic North-South divide that shapes both sets of negotiations recalls the era when “North” was a synonym for “rich,” and “South” was shorthand for those who could not afford to play by the same rules. The world has changed dramatically since then, and in the climate-change negotiations it is now accepted that some developing countries will need to undertake emission reductions by 2020.
The WTO is a step behind. Based exclusively on its own self-assessment, any member can claim to be “developing” and remain at that stage, which automatically entitles them to the benefits of “special and differential” (S&D) treatment. That translates into derogations from general rules and longer periods to introduce less ambitious tariff reductions.