Chapter 5: Conflicts over special and differential treatment in agriculture
Open access

This chapter examines the agency of Brazil, China, and India in shaping the evolution of special and differential treatment (SDT) in the case of agricultural negotiations. Analysing sectoral dynamics, country submissions, and interviews comparing the WTO Ministerial Conferences in Cancún (2003) and Buenos Aires (2017), we argue that rising powers sought to strengthen differential treatment in Cancún, yet (inadvertently) contributed to its unmaking in Buenos Aires. This is, firstly, because of increasingly divergent economic interests, particularly with the emergence of India and China as major agricultural subsidizers. Second, divergent interests undermine South–South solidarity as emerging economies claim access to special rights themselves. Lastly, the inability of WTO members to reform differential treatment facilitates the delegitimization of SDT. These findings help us reassess how the contested status of emerging economies in the WTO has led to a partial unmaking of special rights for developing countries, and contributes to negotiation deadlock.