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Expanding national policy space for development: Why the Multilateral Trading System must change

Robert Hamwey

Development and Comp Systems from EconWPA

Abstract: With the increasing political and economic integration that accompanies globalisation, a growing number of international agreements now restrict the national ‘policy space’ of developed and developing countries alike. The paper demonstrates how developing countries’ national policy space is affected by agreements comprising the Multilateral Trading System (MTS) under the World Trade Organization (WTO). Focus is given to examining the narrowing range of policy options permissible under international trade and finance agreements, and the adverse effects this can have on countries in earlier stages of economic development. These effects are reviewed with the finding that the playing field resulting from international trade agreements, that have ostensibly equivalent rules for all contracting parties, may provide a much smaller policy space for developing than developed countries because of differences in initial conditions and national policy implementation capacities. It is argued that special and differential treatment (S&DT) for developing countries under the MTS needs to be enhanced and made more actionable and effective in order to provide developing countries with essential national policy space for development. Finally, general areas where improved S&DT is needed, and should be pursued by developing countries in the ongoing Doha Round of WTO negotiations, are summarised.

Keywords: trade; development; developing countries; global economic governance; WTO (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: O P (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2005-11-06
Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 30. The paper provides a conceptual overview of national 'policy space' as a sub-space of the universe of policy options available to a country in an ideal world without policy constraints. From such an examination, the paper illustrates how domestic ‘endogenous’ constraints and international ‘exogenous’ constraints may significantly restrict a country’s access to national policy space for development. Sources of endogenous and exogenous constraints are reviewed, and ways that international environmental, social and economic agreements can both reduce and extend national policy space are outlined.
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