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Developing countries in the WTO

Briefing/policy papers

For developing countries, the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations marked their full entry into the world trading system. Furthermore, they entered a system which had been transformed by the Round and the World Trade Organization (WTO) which it created.

By the time the Round ended on 15 December 1993, most developing countries had expectations of substantial gains and there was impatience with the failure of industrial countries to settle their outstanding trade differences. This contrasted with the beginning of the Round in 1986, at the initiative of the US with only limited support from other industrialised countries, when the developing countries were either apprehensive, or indifferent to international trade reform. Some of this apprehension remains, especially for the poorest countries, where possible losses from the Round are a serious concern.

This Briefing Paper considers the basis for these different developing country outlooks on the outcome of the Round. It provides a detailed examination of the results and of the issues which the Round raised and suggests that the quantifiable effects will be smaller than some of the highest estimates, but they will be unequally divided. It also shows how the changes in the trading system are as significant as the founding of the GATT itself.