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 WTOвЂ™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
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).