CUTS’ Statement at the WTO High-level Meeting on Trade and Development

March 17-18, 1999, Geneva, Switzerland

Multilateralism and a rule-based system have been the principal gain for developing countries for the World Trade Organisation (WTO), because it provides protection for the weaker countries.

However the experience gained so far shows that this has failed on various grounds. The language itself of several agreements has been crafted in a manner, which is not harmonious with the language that prevails in weaker countries. More so there are not enough safeguards that would reduce the obligations of the weaker nations. Importantly the developing and less developed countries have not been able to extract the necessary and appropriate flexibilities on the basis of the existing socio-political milieu within their boundaries.

As we come to the end of the Millennium an important step would be to assess the impact of these Agreements signed under the Uruguay Round on poverty, rural development, environment etc. This is important especially for convincing the developing and less developed countries about the positive impacts of trade liberalisation being carried out on the WTO platform.

This High Level Symposium (HLS) provides a good opportunity for the international community to deliberate and find solutions on issues that restrain market access of developing and less developed countries. Possible solutions to some of these issues have been articulated below.

Context Way Forward
  • Special and differential treatment
  • Flexibilities for developing
    and least developed countries through opt-outs
  • The international community
    must commit themselves to honest implementation of special and differential
    treatment under various Agreements as promised to developing and less developed
  • The developed countries should
    also assist developing and less developed countries in terms of financial
    and technical assistance to help them make an effective transition from
    their special and differential status.
  • Flexibilities should be provided
    to developing and least developed countries in implementation of the accords
    including allowing them an opt-out where it is not possible for them to
    implement it. After all there are other plurilateral agreements under the
    WTO umbrella without a single-undertaking commitment.
  • Agriculture
  • Textiles & Clothing
  • The international community
    should seriously note that the special and differential treatment provided
    to developed nations in these Agreements on Agriculture and on Textiles
    & Clothing have been used beyond their spirit.
  • Hence the developed countries
    need to reduce and rein in their concessional periods provided for in these
  • The trade policy reviews of
    the developed countries should also clearly reflect the steps they have
    initiated in the area of structural adjustment for these sectors.
  • Tariff peaking
  • Tariff escalation
  • Non-tariff barriers
  • Antidumping 
  • The international community
    should accord high priority to the reduction and elimination of barriers,
    both tariff and non-tariff to trade in products and services.
  • Efforts being taken to eliminate
    restrictions that differentiate unreasonably between products, in their
    primary and processed form, currently or potentially, of particular export
    interest to developing and less developed countries should be accelerated.
  • Capacity building with an emphasis
    in the area of dispute settlement
  • Special emphasis must be given
    on devising strategies whereby developing and least developed countries
    would be in a position to effectively use the dispute settlement mechanism
    for their benefit. The establishment of the ‘Legal Advisory Centre’ outside
    the purview of the WTO would be the first step in this direction. The rich
    countries should financially support this Centre.
  • Building constituencies
  • In order to build constituencies
    in developing and less developed countries the WTO must have rules which
    will empower these countries to organise awareness and training programmes
    on WTO issues, and to create an enabling mechanism for the same. The trainings
    should include media persons and the civil society.