Rethinking Special and Differential Treatment in the WTO

March 28, 2022

Debates on Special and Differential Treatment (S&DT) at the WTO seem to have largely shifted from the effectiveness of provisions to the eligibility of WTO members for availing S&DT. Today, there is no consensus among WTO members on fundamental aspects of S&DT. There is no real way to measure whether a level-playing field exists after 27 years of the WTO's existence - either between the developed and developing countries or within the group of developing countries. Least-developed countries (LDCs) have faced significant challenges in effectively utilising S&DT flexibilities to integrate into the global trading system better. While S&DT is a cross-cutting issue, it is only one of the WTO's many challenges. Any reform of S&DT is only likely to succeed if addressed as a part of larger trade negotiations. Finally, any rethinking of S&DT must ensure that development concerns remain at the core of the WTO.