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Smoke and Mirrors: Sub-Saharan Africa’s Negotiating Position in the Doha Development Agenda through the Prism of Special and Differential Treatment

by Peter Draper and Nkululeko Khumalo1


No 2, September 2003


Posted with permission of the authors
[Complete version - 210Kb ~ 1 min (7 pages)]     [ Share with a friend  ]


Current negotiations over special and differential treatment (SDT) in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) are rather complex, and fraught with all manner of difficulties. A plethora of proposals is currently under consideration in various committees, making it difficult to gain a holistic sense of where this process is heading. In the complex inter-play of multilateral trade negotiations smoke and mirror tactics on all sides render it difficult to discern commitment from obfuscation. Arguably only those involved in these negotiations really understand the state of play; therefore this article does not set out to provide an update. Rather, in an effort to make out the wood from the trees it seeks to place them in the broader context of the trajectory of the Doha Development Agenda (DDA), and draws out their wider implications for sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).

To locate these negotiations properly it is necessary to place them in historical perspective. First, we explain why the WTO’s predecessor organisation, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) was established. Then the broad evolution of SDT in the global trading system is considered. We then outline some reasons why SDT is important for sub-Saharan African countries; and conclude by outlining some possible outcomes of the Cancun ministerial in light of trade-offs potentially linked to SDT, and the implications thereof for sub-Saharan Africa. In the final analysis, we contend that, contrary to much conventional wisdom concerning the desirability of SDT, the case for it is not clearcut and requires nuancing.

  1. PETER DRAPER is Research Fellow: Development Through Trade Project at the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA); and NKULULEKO KHUMALO is a student intern of the SAIIA and final year LLM student at the University of the Western Cape through whom financial assistance for the internship was extended. The Development Through Trade project at SAIIA is funded by DFID and USAID/South Africa through Nathan Associates SEGA/MESP Project (Contract number: 674-0321-C-00-8016-22).

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