Who’s a "developing country"?

By David Bosco

In today’s world, one of the basic identities that a country has is its position on the continuum from less developed to developing and, finally, to developed. The working assumption is that a country wants to move from one category to the next. And in terms of a country’s economic output, that’s probably reasonable.

But it turns out that wanting to develop and wanting to be classified as "developed" are two quite different things. Particularly when it comes to international trade, there are pocketbook reasons that a country might prefer to remain "developing" long after economic data and common sense remove it from that category. Some of the key international trade agreements underlying the World Trade Organization, in particular, offer special benefits to developing countries:

Developing country status in the WTO brings certain rights. There are for example provisions in some WTO Agreements which provide developing countries with longer transition periods before they are required to fully implement the agreement and developing countries can receive technical assistance.

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