No question of giving up special privileges at WTO, say larger developing countries

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on March 15, 2019 Published on March 15, 2019

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‘In overall terms, the development divide remains firmly entrenched’

Larger developing countries, including India, China and Brazil, have taken on developed countries that are demanding discontinuation of the special and differential treatment extended to them at the World Trade Organization. They argued that economic indicators such as per capita economic output and poverty levels clearly point out the glaring disparity that still exists between the developing and the developed world.

For Brazil, China, India and Indonesia, the gap in GDP per capita with the US increased by at least 71 per cent and with the UK by 63 per cent between 1994-96 and 2014-16, according to a joint paper by a number of developing countries, including India, submitted to the WTO General Council recently.

“Recent attempts by some members to selectively employ certain economic and trade data to deny the persistence of the divide between developing and developed members, and to demand the former to abide by absolute “reciprocity” in the interest of “fairness” are profoundly disingenuous,” the paper stated.

It is important for developing countries to defend the special & differential treatment allowed to them by the WTO as in the on-going areas of negotiations such as disciplines for fisheries subsidies, they can protect some of their subsidies for their poor fishers through this special dispensation.

“The world has indeed changed in many ways since the GATT and the establishment of the WTO, but in overall terms the development divide remains firmly entrenched,” the submission said.

It is therefore of greater concern that some members would attempt to ignore this reality in an effort to deprive developing members of their right to develop, it added.

GDP per capita

The submission put forward a number of facts and figures to substantiate its argument. In 2017, the GDP per capita of the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the EU was $59,531, $45,032, $53,800, $42,941, and $33,715, respectively, while the GDP per capita of developing Members, including China, India, South Africa and Brazil, were all below $10,000, it said.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, 10 countries with the largest number of the world's under-nourished people are: India (195.9 million), China (124.5 million), Pakistan (39.5 million), Bangladesh (24.8 million), Ethiopia (21.9 million), Nigeria (21.5 million), Indonesia (20.2 million), Tanzania (17.8 million), Uganda (17.2 million) and Philippines (14.2 million).

The submission also focussed on the necessity to recognise the differing capabilities of developed and developing countries in the area of agriculture. “In many developing members, despite agriculture being the largest source of employment, this sector remains characterised by small farm size, but with large number of farmers dependent on it. In contrast, in the US, agriculture is characterised by extremely large farm size with few farmers dependent on agriculture for their livelihood,” it said.

Published on March 15, 2019
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