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Rethinking Special and Differential Treatment in the WTO

Discussion Papers


December 2013


Special and differential treatment (S&D) allows differentiated treatment for developing countries within the WTO system by justifying a deviation from the most-favoured-nation obligation. Since it was incorporated into the GATT (the predecessor of the WTO) in the 1960s, S&D has played a significant role in promoting the integration of developing countries into the multilateral trading system. However, S&D is undergoing complicated and entangled discussion at the current multilateral trade negotiations, the Doha Development Agenda. There are a number of reasons to make opposing arguments in developed and developing countries, among which this paper focuses on two elements: diversification of developing countries and instability of preferential schemes. In order to overcome these problems and in order to make S&D more effective and operational, this paper considers the following alternative approaches: differentiation among developing countries applying the common but differentiated responsibility (CBDR) principle by analogy and codification of a preferential scheme as a multilateral agreement in the manner of North-South RTAs with flexibility.

Keywords: Special and differential treatment, WTO, trade policy, development
JEL classification: F13, K33, O19

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