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Trade / Development

The Doha Round, initiated at the 2001 WTO Ministerial Conference, is often qualified as a "Development" Round. This qualification raises two main issues.

Firstly, what is the relationship between trade and development? A series of recent economic studies leave little doubt that an open trade regime has a positive impact on growth, if the economy of the country in question is not too severely distorted (but, in such a case, distortions should be addressed by appropriate domestic policies, not by trade policy). This condition is even more important when one looks at the positive impact of trade on development and poverty -- two goals which require a high level of governance in domestic matters.

Secondly, what should be the nature and extent of the “special and differential treatment” —the fact that developing countries have different rights and obligations than developed countries in the WTO? This difficult issue is even more accute in the current Doha Round because developing and developed countries alike face a situation largely unknown before. Developing countries are no more an homogeneous group of countries (one third of the “developing countries” in the WTO have a GDP per capita higher than the poorest Member states of the European Union). And recent years have shown that developing countries can rapidly enter sectors which, only a few years ago, were seen as the exclusive territory of rich economies.

These crucial questions are at the core of the Report on Trade for Development of the UN Task Force on Trade set up in the context of the Millennium Development Goals.


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