Over three-quarters of WTO members identify themselves as
developing countries. Recognizing the important role played by
multilaterally agreed-upon rules in governing global trade, these
countries are increasingly active participants in multilateral
trade negotiations. The Doha Declaration, which launched the
current multilateral negotiations, makes developing country issues
an integral part of the discussions. This has resulted in a
departure from using the term "round," with WTO members opting
instead for "
Doha Development Agenda" to reflect the new emphasis.
Practically every developing country member has been associated
with at least one proposal, statement, or supporting document
submission (see the WTO's Agriculture Negotiations: Backgrounder).
Numerous developing country coalitions have been formed based on
common characteristics or issues relevant to the agriculture
negotiations (see the WTO's Agriculture Negotiations: Backgrounder,
Countries, Alliances, and Proposals). By
working together, these countries can share technical expertise,
reach a consensus on mutual interests, and combine their voices to
effectively raise their concerns.
Developing countries have interests in the three main
agricultural trade issues-market access, domestic support, and
export competition. However, they also have particular interests in
such wide-ranging issues as rural development, food security,
livelihood security, and financial and technical assistance. The
issues can vary in importance by geographic region, by income
level, or by a country's status as a net exporter or importer.
Developing countries have been vocal critics of agricultural
policies in developed countries. For example, during the Fifth WTO Ministerial Conference in Cancun,
Mexico, in September 2003, the
G-20 coalition of developing countries was instrumental in
opposing a framework agreement based loosely on a proposal
submitted jointly by the European Union and the United States. They
have also argued for extensive special and differential treatment
for their policies.
Developing countries have emerged as a significant political
force and have been successful in securing agreements to have a
number of their concerns addressed in the negotiations. For
example, in response to proposals from four African countries
(Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, and Mali), WTO members set up a Cotton Subcommittee within the negotiations to
focus specifically on issues and government policies that impact
the world cotton market. Other developing-country concerns being
discussed include tariff escalation (higher import duties on
processed products than on raw materials), special market access
for tropical products and products important to diversification
from production of illicit narcotic crops, and options to address
the effects of reducing long-term tariff preferences for developing