An Undifferentiated WTO: Self Declared Development Status Risks Institutional Irrelevance



United States Delegation to the WTO General Council

An Undifferentiated WTO: Self-Declared Development Status Risks Institutional Irrelevance


The following communication, dated 15 January 2019, is being circulated at the request of the delegation of the United States.

1  Introduction

1.1 In the preamble to the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization, the Parties recognized that “their relations in the field of trade and economic endeavor should be conducted with a view to raising standards of living, ensuring full employment and a large and steadily growing volume of real income and effective demand, and expanding the production of and trade in goods and services, while allowing for the optimal use of the world’s resources in accordance with the objective of sustainable development….”

1.2 Since the WTO’s inception in 1995, Members have made significant strides in pursuing these aims. Global Gross National Income (GNI) per capita on a purchasing-power-parity (PPP) basis, adjusted for inflation, surged by nearly two-thirds, from $9,116 in 1995 to $15,072 in 2016. The United Nations Development Program’s (UNDP) Human Development Index (HDI) for the world increased from 0.598 to 0.728 between 1990 and 2017. According to the World Bank, between 1993 and 2015 — the most recent year for which comprehensive data on global poverty is available — the percentage of people around the world who live in extreme poverty fell from 33.5 percent to 10 percent, the lowest poverty rate in recorded history. Despite the world population increasing by more than two billion people between 1990 and 2015, the number of people living in extreme poverty fell by more than 1.1 billion during the same period, to about 736 million.

1.3 Trade appears to have been an important contributor to these positive trends. Between 1995 and 2017, exports of goods more than tripled and exports of services more than quadrupled, increasing by 260 percent and 315 percent, respectively. Underpinned by principles of transparency, openness, and predictability, WTO rules were crafted in part to set conditions most favorable for increasing trade, attracting investment, and improving efficiency.


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