Implementation of Uruguay Round Commitments
The Development Challenge
At the Uruguay Round, developing countries took on obligations not only to reduce trade barriers but also to undertake significant reforms of regulations and trade procedures. The Round did not, however, take into account the cost of implementing these reforms - a full year's development budget for many of the least developed countries - nor did it ask whether the money might be more productive in other development uses.
At the Uruguay Round, developing countries took on unprecedented obligations not only to reduce trade barriers but to implement significant reforms both of trade procedures (including import licensing procedures and customs valuation) and of many areas of regulation that establish the basic business environment in the domestic economy (including intellectual property law and technical, sanitary, and phytosanitary standards. This will cost substantial amounts of money. World Bank project experience in areas covered by the agreements suggests that an entire year's development budget is at stake in many of the least developed countries. Institutions in these areas are weak in developing countries, and would benefit from strengthening and reform. But Finger and Schuler's analysis indicates that the obligations reflect little awareness of development problems and little appreciation for the capacities of the least developed countries to carry out the functions that these reforms of regulations and trade procedures address.
The content of these obligations can be characterized as the advanced countries saying to the others, Do it my way!
Moreover, these developing countries had limited capacity to participate in the Uruguay Round negotiations, so the process has generated no sense of ownership of the reforms to which membership in the World Trade Organization obligates them. From their perspective, the implementation exercise has been imposed imperially, with little concern for what it will cost, how it will be carried out, or whether it will support their development efforts.
About the Authors
J. Michael Finger
American Enterprise Institute
The World Bank