The WTO negotiations on trade facilitation are part of the Doha Development Agenda, which
grants central importance to developing countries objectives and implementation concerns.
In the view of many, multilateral rules on trade facilitation stand a chance to yield real
benefits for developing and landlocked countries, if these countries are provided with an
effective capacity to implement their commitments.
The text setting the modalities of negotiations on trade facilitation, the Annex D of the socalled
July Package 2004, clearly states that the negotiated outcome will take full
consideration of the principle of special and differential treatment and that it should go
beyond traditional approaches to special and differential treatment (S&DT). Members aim at
crafting legal provisions which are more effective than the existing ones in addressing
implementation concerns of developing countries.
UNCTAD provides technical assistance and capacity-building to developing countries during
the negotiations to support their effective participation. Advisory services to delegations of
developing countries are part of this endeavour. This study contributes to the objectives of
UNCTAD’s technical assistance. It provides a review of selected provisions of World Trade
Organization (WTO) agreements as they relate to S&DT, the review and monitoring
mechanisms for the implementation of agreements, and the role of the supervisory bodies of
the agreements. When examining these provisions and mechanisms, clarification is provided
on their legal and operational effects keeping in mind their potential relevance for the
discussions in the Negotiating Group on Trade Facilitation (NGTF).
The review shows that a shortcoming of the currently existing provisions is the lack of
operational and legal linkage between technical assistance, special and differential treatment
regarding the application of commitments and the reporting, notification and review
requirements of member States. On-going discussions in the Sanitary and Phytosanitary
(SPS) and TBT Committees and the TRIPS Council underline the benefits and importance of
strengthening transparency and reporting mechanisms for a more effective application of the
special and differential treatment provisions.
The study concludes that a new and more effective approach to the implementation of WTO
obligations should link S&DT flexibilities to technical assistance commitments and an
effective transparency mechanism. Based on the findings of the review of the existing
provisions, the study concludes with an outline of such a comprehensive implementation
framework and the procedural requirements it entails.