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Special and Differential treatment


Multilateral trade deals make up a significant portion of today's modern world trade mechanism. A multilateral trade arrangement is a grouping of 3 or more nations that choose to control trade between themselves beyond prejudice. These negotiations are typically designed to reduce trade restrictions between countries involved and, as a consequence, strengthen the level of economic cooperation and integration between them. Special and differential status is a term used to describe the special rights and benefits granted to developed nations under the WTO system. Such provisions are critical to the current workings of global markets. The World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreements have provisions that grant developed nations unique rights within the scope of the WTO. "Special and differential treatment" clauses are the name for these rights. Through the majority of the post war era, special and preferential treatment (S&D) has become a distinguishing characteristic of the multilateral trading mechanism. Decades back, the struggle to develop the premise that a series of uniform multilateral rights and responsibilities could not represent the best needs of both sides was achieved.

The tendency may be motivated by anger, as a result of a perception that the program's more industrialized nations are inactive to the actual requirements of developing countries. It could also indicate an unwillingness or inability to participate in dialogue and conduct research at the level of depth and precision required for a successful result. The World Trade Organization (WTO) is a multinational agreement signed by various nations with vastly differing interests and governing markets with vastly differing attributes. If there is agreement on the main question about how these discrepancies can be handled in the future, If the Representatives do not have a shared purpose, the mechanism would be jeopardized. Its multilateral nature, as well as all the opportunities that come with a "universalist" view, would be jeopardized. In the obvious sense, improved Participant awareness about how to interpret S&D and address the issue of which participants should really have exposure to it seems to be an unavoidable prerequisite of progress in the Doha negotiations.

National treatment principle :- Domestic goods and foreign goods, Both these goods should be treated equally and alike. The principle starts functioning when a product or services reach the country or for example when it reaches Indian market not before that. Government cannot say that we will only support domestic goods or services. they cannot differentiate. The object of the national treatment rule is to remove “hidden” domestic trade barriers by giving imported goods the same treatment as products of national origin. NTP was created to prohibit and limit the domestic government from enacting any internal regulations that could lead to discrimination against imported goods in favour of domestic goods.

The criteria for like products is the end uses, common features and physical characteristics to determine whether a product is alike or similar, once this is determined then it must be ascertained that the said products have been subject to an internal taxes or internal charges to that which is charged for domestic goods. The WTO is guided by certain principles and one of them is the concept of Most favoured nation, all the member countries have to comply with this principle, this principle says that a member country of WTO cannot discriminate another member in relation to trade. A member country cannot discriminate between trade partners, and if special privileges is given to one trade partner, the country must apply it to all other WTO members. Article 1 of the GATT allows WTO members to grant MFN treatment to similar goods from other WTO members in terms of tariffs, export and import regulations, internal taxes and charges, and internal regulations.

To put it another way, “like” items from all WTO members must be given the same treatment, the same treatment as the most beneficial treatment provided to the goods in any given condition In a brief, MFN is a non-discriminatory trade policy that guarantees that all WTO member countries have fair trading opportunities rather than special trading rights.


An understanding of the history of multilateral trade mechanism rules tailored especially for developed nations offers a useful viewpoint when addressing the topic of S&D today in the light of the Doha initiative. Four stages can be effectively differentiated here in this detailed summary of how the S&D problem has progressed in the GATT/WTO scheme. The first period runs from the GATT's inception in 1948 to the start of the Tokyo Round in 1973.The Tokyo round, which lasted from 1973 to 1979, is the 2nd round. From the end of the Tokyo Round to the ending of the Uruguay Round, from 1979 to 1995, is the third level. The fourth stage begins after the Uruguay round concludes. past two years, several debates have taken place in various aspects about how to strengthen the WTO's internal functioning processes to make sure that almost all actors who want to engage in compromises and judgment are willing to do so. This is a critical issue that will begin to be debated, however it is not directly on the Doha plan. The implementation interactions are driven by two separate components. One is the difficulties that some developed nations are having in carrying out their commitments, taking into account the expenses, logistical issues, and human resource needs.

Enhanced tech support and sustainable development attempts are being taken to resolve this area of deployment. The specific terms of numerous WTO agreements are all the other component of compliance. Several guidelines are being modified by developed countries in order to make them more inclusive of growth and/or less stringent in terms of the extent of regulatory stability granted to underdeveloped nations. further exercise was introduced in Doha, this time concentrating on S&D, more important clauses Paragraph 44 of the Doha Declaration, on the other hand, provides for a revision of all S&D requirements "in order to enhance and make them more clear, efficient, and functional." Several hours of workshops are being devoted to the introduction and S&D talks, but many questions need to be answered.

Another point of dispute would be how to correctly identify developing nations. A common criticism of nations which had previously passed the so-called "developed" threshold was that they were still reaping the rewards of its former developing status. This line of thinking has led some nations, like as the United States, to contend that several developing nations are abusing the laws and existing trade network. That seems to be, they have voluntarily designated themselves as developing economies and have become substantial stakeholders in international markets.

Provisions under special and differential treatment

Certain additional arrangements inside the WTO system grant developed nations a variety of special rights and protections. In addition, it allows advanced economies to regard emerging markets more favourably than their other WTO allies.

The below are the special provisions:

  • Conditions directing all WTO members to protect developed nations' trading relationship.

  • Members from least-developed countries (LDCs) are covered by regulations.

  • Assistance to developed nations in developing their ability to handle WTO function, resolve conflicts, and enforce regulatory standards.

  • Longer implementation times for negotiations and resolutions,

  • Steps to expand development trade relationships for developing nations.

Several provision for special and differential treatment in WTO

The scope of preferential and differential treatment encompasses 145 specific sections found in several Multilateral Treaties on Trade in Goods, the Agreement on Trade in Services, the Agreement on Market Issues of Intellectual Property, the Consensus on Rules and Regulations Regulating Dispute Resolution, and numerous Governmental Judgments. 107 of the 145 provisions were introduced at the close of the Uruguay Round, and 22 of them are only applicable to LDC members. The clauses in question led to acts that developed nations may take as a result of restrictions from membership-related criteria. usually; limitations from obligations that otherwise would extend to all Representatives; a low degree of engagement for emerging nations in comparison to developed nations and inclusion.

The following review distinguishes five arguments for Special &Differential Consideration. The below are the five types:

1. Differentiated and unique consideration is a political right that must be earned.

2. Developing countries, especially those in the developed world, should have exclusive accessibility to their target firms'.

3. Developing countries should have the freedom to impose stronger import restrictions than emerging nations.

4. Developing nations should be given more flexibility in order to subsidize exports.

5. Developing countries should be granted latitude in favor of the implementation of such WTO rules, or to delay the operation of WTO rules.

Relevance of S and DT in Agriculture

Agricultural trade remains a major part in many nations, with a significant impact on domestic production and employment. The global trade mechanism is also critical in maintaining world food stability.

The Agriculture Agreement is divided into three parts. Market entry, domestic assistance, and export subsidies are all examples of this. Tariff reductions that are consistent and incremental are a key aspect of access to the market. Converting non-tariff obstacles to tariff duties is another similar process.

Household care, on the other hand, comes with a fixed minimum support amount. Blue box, green box, and amber box subsidies are the three types of program mechanisms. The sums invested on government programs such as study, disease prevention, housing, and food safety are referred to as Green Box subsidies. Meanwhile, Blue box subsidies tend to restrict demand by setting production limits or requiring peasants to set aside a certain amount of their territory. Ultimately, Amber box subsidies are those which modify the balance of foreign trade by rendering a country's exports less expensive in contrast to equivalent products from another region. Input subsidies, such as power, fertilizers, seeds, irrigation, and minimum support prices, are illustrations of such subsidies. Export subsidies, particularly ones aimed at developing nations, were originally designed around unique protection procedures that give considerable security for emerging economies in the event of price spikes that are out of the ordinary.

WTO members have taken measures in recent times to overhaul cultivation and fix the subsidies and higher barriers to trade that obstruct agricultural trade. Groups are continuing to hold discussions and deliberations in order to press for any further change. In reality, a landmark decision was taken in 2015, when a strong majority was taken to eliminate major agricultural subsidies and establish guidelines for other types of aid. Even after this, disagreements persist about the essence of the proposed provisions to be implemented. Developing nations are seeking minor reforms and adjustments to the new system.

Current problems with special and differential treatment

As a part of the self-selection procedure, members are competing for the position of developed world. Numerous industrialized nations have clearly adopted the status of developed world. Qatar, for instance, is a developing economy with the world's sixth highest per capita income. South Korea, through its progressive industrialization, is still classified as a developing region. Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, and Oman are examples of other developed nations.

A group was constituted at the Doha Ministerial Conference (2001) to look into these unique and unequal care regulations. A process was soon added at the Bali Ministerial Conference (2013) to assess and analyze the application of special and differentiated care clauses. As a result of these changes, the industrialized world is pushing for the growth trends of emerging economies to be limited to a reduced number of nations.

Initiatives taken by India to protect S and DT

The majority of developed nations regard Special and Differential Treatment as an appropriate growth opportunity. India is working hard to keep the S&DT designation for all developed nations. China and South Africa have thrown their weight behind India's efforts.

In May 2019, India proposed its plan to secure the S&DT at the WTO's mini ministerial meeting in New Delhi. Twenty-two emerging and least advanced nations attended the event.

The Mini Ministerial occurred at a time when a coalition of 77 nations, such as China, is debating the latest topic of e - commerce in plurilateral talks. India is adamantly opposed to ecommerce being included in the WTO programme. “We want progress through S&DT, as well as appellate body nominations, to be at the heart of WTO restructuring. We'll also talk about how to solve inequities in numerous global agreements, agricultural sectors,” an Indian trade official said and also told about the Mini Ministerial's mission.

European communities case

India has now been engaged in 33 WTO disputes ever since organization's founding in 1995. It already has filed 16 accusations against all the other nations and it has received 17 complaints on itself. Among the third world nations, India is uses WTO dispute settlement mechanism very frequently. India was embroiled in a conflict with EU about tariff concessions offered to 12 developing nations under Generalized System of Preferences by members of the European Communities (EC). The argument arose from India's assumption that differentiation would only be applied in favour of least developed and developing nations under WTO framework. In contrast, the European Commission (EC) announced its GSP plan in December 2001, that included mechanisms for five separate tariff concessions options. As a result of this agreement, 12 nations obtained higher tariff reductions than nations like India, causing excessive problems for India's exports and depriving India of the benefits granted to it under most favoured nation policy.


Special and differential approach enables for some bias in favour of emerging nations. Despite calls from several places for all these governments to be restructured, S&D therapy is essential for emerging nations. This is particularly true for the agriculture industry. As a result, this should exist in some way or another. Developing countries can nowhere be compared to developed nations in any aspect thus such special treatment must be provided for these nations to grow, prosper and survive in this global marketplace.



Name- Devangi Tiwari

UPES School of law, Dehradun

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