Reflecting the growing influence of developing countries in the WTO and the increasing importance attached to development and developing country concerns at the WTO, Chapter 3 of the Report is devoted to considering how the WTO might be reformed so as to benefit further its weakest Members. We note that the impact of the multilateral trade regime on developing countries is influenced by effective export opportunities, the choice of the negotiation set, the policy design of negotiated outcomes and the manner in which results are implemented. Following a short discussion of links between trade and development, the Report takes up the questions of Special and Differential Treatment (S&DT) and Aid for Trade (AfT).
Debate over S&DT provisions in the WTO has been contentious and over-politicised and the need for substantive analysis has often been neglected. Critics of S&DT provisions have characterised them as insensitive to diverse conditions in developing countries, often irrelevant to real development needs, and over-reliant on best-endeavour undertakings that are often disregarded. The Commission recommends that efforts be redoubled to design clear, concrete S&DT provisions based on solid analysis of development needs and cognisant of the reality that differing needs among developing countries call for differentiated measures. The Commission commends the approach taken in the Doha negotiating mandate on trade facilitation, where the need for technical assistance and resource support to undertake new trade disciplines is linked to the ability do so. The Commission also believes that the systemic aspects of this issue should be taken up in the proposed reflection exercise.
The Commission notes the importance of increasing opportunities for developing countries to benefit from trade through improving physical infrastructure and human capital, modernising and streamlining administrative procedures, and strengthening trade-related regimes such as those dealing with product standards. The Commission applauds the AfT initiative and recommends that the respective responsibilities of the WTO, donor nations, potential recipient nations, and the other international organisations involved with this initiative be clearly delineated. Failure to identify the locus of respective responsibilities will weaken the effectiveness of AfT and heighten the risk that the WTO will be wrongly blamed for the lapses of others. Thus each party should be held accountable for its contribution to this initiative, which should stand apart from trade negotiations.