Special and differential treatment (S&D) for developing countries continues to be a defining feature of the multilateral trading system. This paper seeks to address key aspects of what has become an increasingly entangled and multi-faceted discussion. The paper begins by reviewing the historical context in which the relationship of developing countries with the multilateral trading system evolved. The paper distinguishes several elements in the case typically made for S&D. It argues that concerns about graduation — the definition of which countries qualify for special treatment —have complicated progress on this issue, suggesting that a focus on measures rather than on country status would obviate this difficulty, while at the same time increasing the analytical underpinning of the case for special and differential treatment. The paper explores various forms of S&D and develops arguments for particular approaches to the design and management of access to S&D. An illustration is provided of how a more analytical approach would work by defining eligibility automatically in relation to measures rather than countries.


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  • Published online: 01 May 2004
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