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Image: International Markets & Trade

Developing Countries in the WTO

Over three-quarters of WTO members identify themselves as developing countries. Recognizing the important role played by multilaterally agreed-upon rules in governing global trade, these countries are increasingly active participants in multilateral trade negotiations. The Doha Declaration, which launched the current multilateral negotiations, makes developing country issues an integral part of the discussions. This has resulted in a departure from using the term "round," with WTO members opting instead for " Doha Development Agenda" to reflect the new emphasis.

Practically every developing country member has been associated with at least one proposal, statement, or supporting document submission (see the WTO's Agriculture Negotiations: Backgrounder). Numerous developing country coalitions have been formed based on common characteristics or issues relevant to the agriculture negotiations (see the WTO's Agriculture Negotiations: Backgrounder, Countries, Alliances, and Proposals). By working together, these countries can share technical expertise, reach a consensus on mutual interests, and combine their voices to effectively raise their concerns.

Developing countries have interests in the three main agricultural trade issues-market access, domestic support, and export competition. However, they also have particular interests in such wide-ranging issues as rural development, food security, livelihood security, and financial and technical assistance. The issues can vary in importance by geographic region, by income level, or by a country's status as a net exporter or importer.

Developing countries have been vocal critics of agricultural policies in developed countries. For example, during the Fifth WTO Ministerial Conference in Cancun, Mexico, in September 2003, the G-20 coalition of developing countries was instrumental in opposing a framework agreement based loosely on a proposal submitted jointly by the European Union and the United States. They have also argued for extensive special and differential treatment for their policies.

Developing countries have emerged as a significant political force and have been successful in securing agreements to have a number of their concerns addressed in the negotiations. For example, in response to proposals from four African countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, and Mali), WTO members set up a Cotton Subcommittee within the negotiations to focus specifically on issues and government policies that impact the world cotton market. Other developing-country concerns being discussed include tariff escalation (higher import duties on processed products than on raw materials), special market access for tropical products and products important to diversification from production of illicit narcotic crops, and options to address the effects of reducing long-term tariff preferences for developing countries' exports.

Last updated: Monday, June 04, 2012

For more information contact: John Wainio