The Uruguay Round agreements have not provided the expected benefits for developing countries. The "positive agenda" put forward by developing countries at the WTO meeting in Seattle was not even taken into account. The failure at Seattle was a result of substantive disagreement among developed countries. The rules of the multilateral trading system included best endeavour provisions in favour of developing countries which would need to be made effective and legally binding. A truly equitable trading system, to ensure full participation of developing countries was advocated.
Prior to the Seattle conference, the WTO has been dominated by the three major trading blocs: the western hemisphere block organized around the NAFTA treaties, the European Economic Community (EEC) and the Asian industrialized nations. The Seattle talks were the first which included developing countries. The complex tensions inside the WTO was reflected in the structure of the "green room" discussions dominated by the more powerful WTO members and the general meeting where the entire body -- recently expanded by the addition of developing nations -- would attempt to ratify the "green room" decisions by consensus.
The WTO Agreement on Agriculture states, "Having agreed that in implementing their commitments on market access, developed country members would take fully into account the particular needs and conditions of developing country members by providing for a greater improvement of opportunities and terms of access for agricultural products of particular interest to these members, including the fullest liberalization of trade in tropical agricultural products as agreed at the Mid-Term Review, and for products of particular importance to the diversification of production from the growing of illicit narcotic crops.
2. Developing countries are better off in a rules-based trading system with limits to the powers of stronger countries and transnational corporations.
3. Developing countries must focus on reducing the constraints to agricultural trade in the WTO negotiations. Export subsidies should be outlawed, domestic producer subsidies reduced, access under tariff quotas increased, tariff escalation on processed agricultural products removed, and the level and dispersion of bound tariffs on agricultural imports reduced.
4. UNCTAD should define its functions and work programme in partnership with the WTO, FAO, IMF and the World Bank. These should include: providing a forum for developing countries on trade and related issues; maintaining trade-related databases and providing information; undertaking high-quality analyses; providing technical assistance in norms and standards and in dispute settlements; advocating better market access in industrial countries; and helping to build coalitions for seeking common developing country positions in multilateral trade negotiations.