Developing Countries Create Momentum for Change in the WTO

Rorden Wilkinson argues that when seen from the perspective of its stated aims and objectives – the exchange of trade concessions, creation of trade rules and dispute settlement – the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) before it appear to have performed poorly. However, he argues that it is more appropriate to analyze the WTO from the perspective of its underlying purpose, which is to ‘enable the leading industrial states to open markets in the areas of economic benefit while protecting and ⁄ or forestalling the liberalization of those that were and are politically sensitive’ (p. 44). Seen from the latter perspective Wilkinson argues that the WTO has been quite successful. Wilkinson insists on the need to take a historical view and analyze the WTO over the eight rounds of negotiations since it was created in 1947. During each round developed countries in the GATT, he argues, continued to promise the developing countries gains in areas of export interest to them. Developed countries promised to open their markets to the agriculture and textiles exports of developing countries, but in reality the developed countries continued to protect these products even more. The result after eight rounds of negotiations (the last being the Uruguay Round) has been the making of an institution that reflects an ‘asymmetry of opportunity’ against the developing countries, with the developed countries taking the lion’s share of the gains of the multilateral trading system. This analysis leads Wilkinson to conclude that the ‘balance of economic opportunity resulting from a conclusion to the DDA will reside with the industrial states’ (p. 50).

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