Chapter 2: The gradual unmaking of special and differential treatment in the trade regime
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This chapter examines the implications of the rise of new powers in the Global South for a central principle of the global trade order: special and differential treatment (SDT) of developing countries in the World Trade Organization (WTO). To trace the evolution of SDT in light of global power shifts, we analyse legal developments and processes of contestation. Drawing on a dataset of WTO decisions and agreements from 1995 to 2019, we find that resilience at the level of the legal framework goes hand in hand with the gradual unmaking of differential treatment in the practices of day-to-day negotiations. Special rights are increasingly limited to group(s) of rights-holders that are smaller than the group of developing countries – and exclude rising powers. These findings shed new light on the implications of the rise of Brazil, China, and India for global governance in general, and the trade regime in particular.