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Developing country participation in the GATT: a reassessment

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-08, 19:43 authored by Rorden Wilkinson, James Scott
Two broad interpretations currently prevail in the literature on developing country participation in the GATT. The first suggests that developing countries spent most of their time in the GATT negotiating to be relieved of various commitments, focusing on the pursuit of industrialization through import substitution and/or free-riding on the commitments made by their industrial counterparts. The second interpretation suggests that developing countries spent the majority of their time in the GATT either as quiet bystanders lacking the expertise or political representation to participate fully, or else attempting to redress biases in the institution's design. The problem with both of these interpretations is that while each has merit neither offers a sufficiently rounded account of developing country participation. Our purpose in this paper is to offer an alternative account of developing country participation that shows more accurately the extent and variation of that participation. We argue that throughout the development of the GATT developing countries were active participants that consistently sought to have an impact on the nature and direction of the multilateral trading system. We also argue that while the energy of developing countries was often directed towards negotiating more favourable treatment for themselves, this was a result more of the asymmetrical manner in which the GATT was deployed and a consequence of their relative underdevelopment than of a desire to free-ride on the favourable trading conditions created by the concession exchanging activities of others. © Rorden Wilkinson and James Scott.


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  • Published


World Trade Review




Cambridge University Press





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  • International Relations Publications

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