Summary: 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, e.g., import licensing procedures, customs valuation and of many areas of regulation that establish the basic business environment in the domestic economy, e.g., technical, sanitary and phytosanitary standards (SPS), intellectual property law. Implementing such reforms are investment decisions in that implementation will require purchase of equipment, training of people, establishment of systems of checks and balances, etc. This will cost money and the amounts of money involved are substantial. Based on World Bank project experience in the areas covered by the agreements, an entire year's development budget is at stake in many of the least developed countries. Least developed country institutions in these areas are weak, and would benefit from strengthening and reform. However, the authors' analysis indicates that the World Trade Organization (WTO) obligations reflect little awareness of development problems and little appreciation of the capacities of the least developed countries to carry out the functions that SPS, customs valuation, intellectual property, etc. regulations address. The content of these obligations can be characterized as the advanced countries saying to the others, "Do it my way!" The authors touch at the beginning on another important point. Because of their limited capacity to participate in the Uruguay Round negotiations, the WTO process has generated no sense of "ownership" of the reforms to which WTO membership obligates them. From their perspective, the implementation exercise has been imposed in an imperial way, with little concern for what it will cost, how it will be done, or if it will support their development efforts.
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