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Can the Sustainable Development Goals offer a new lease on life for the World Trade Organization?

Over the past few years, there has hardly been any doubt that the multilateral trading system being governed by the World Trade Organization (WTO) has been facing an existential crisis. This rather uneasy feeling was reinforced in Buenos Aires in December 2017, after the 11th Ministerial Conference (MC11) ended without taking decisions on any of the issues on which members of the organisation were engaged for the past several months. What is perhaps more problematic is that MC11 did not provide the organization its future work programme.

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Export restrictions and policy space for sustainable development: Lessons from trends in the regulation of export restrictions (2012-2016)

The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 1994 (GATT 1994) generally prohibits the World Trade Organization (WTO) members from using export quotas and other quantitative restrictions with certain exceptions. By contrast, export duties are not regulated under the GATT 1994 though a few WTO members such as China commit to restricting the use of export duties in their WTO accession protocols. Given the plethora of regional trade agreements (RTAs) and the slow progress of the WTO Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations, the incorporation of WTO-plus provisions into RTAs that regulate export restrictions in a more effective manner could contribute to a transparent and predictable trade regime.

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A HANDBOOK ON SAFEGUARD RULES FOR LEAST DEVELOPED COUNTRIES

Article XIX of GATT (Emergency Action) and the WTO Agreement on Safeguards (1994) allow member States to take safeguard measures to protect domestic producers from serious injury caused by increased imports. These measures can be in the form of an import duty exceeding the bound rate, import quotas (where allowed) or a combination of both as Tariff Rate Quotas.  The measures can only be applied for a limited duration, initially lasting for up to four years, and can be extended to a maximum of eight years (10 years in the case of developing countries, including a least developed country) from the date of their initial imposition.

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