S&DT Monitoring Mechanism Taking Shape

3 November 2010

A group of WTO ambassadors have reached a tentative agreement on the shape of a ‘monitoring mechanism' that would review the functioning of the multilateral trading system's provisions for ‘special and differential treatment' (S&DT) for developing countries, and possibly suggest improvements to those provisions.

The ambassadors, from developed and developing countries representing a cross-section of interests among the WTO's membership, have been holding regular, informal meetings to discuss the spectrum of issues in the Doha Round negotiations. They have produced a short document on "guiding principles" for the S&DT monitoring mechanism.

The proposal was discussed Wednesday in a small group of delegates; the chair of the Committee on Trade and Development special session (CTD-SS) may bring it forward in a meeting of all members next week, sources say.

As per the document, the mechanism "shall act as a focal point within the WTO to analyse and review [the] implementation of S&DT provisions. It shall complement, not replace other relevant review mechanisms in other bodies of the WTO." It would "regularly evaluate the utilization and effectiveness of S&DT provisions, with a view to ensuring that they are effectively and better implemented." Notably, it is charged with proposing action, "as appropriate," that would strengthen and improve the reviewed provisions.

One of the sticking points in WTO discussions on an S&DT monitoring mechanism has been whether it would be a negotiating body or a transparency exercise focusing more on improved implementation. Generally, developing countries favoured the former, with developed countries preferring the latter. The "guiding principles" document struck a compromise by specifying first that the "monitoring mechanism is not a negotiating body" but immediately opening the door to "recommendations or proposals for opening negotiations as applicable in other WTO bodies over the S&DT provision(s) reviewed."

The monitoring mechanism is to operate through "dedicated sessions" of the Committee on Trade and Development.

The Doha mandate instructs members to review "all special and differential treatment provisions... with a view to strengthening them and making them more precise, effective and operational."

ICTSD reporting.

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