The impact of the idea of ‘development’ in multilateral trade lawmaking is often reduced to the principle of ‘special and differential treatment’, which exempts developing countries from certain obligations imposed by the trade regime. The article shows that ‘development’ has always presented a much wider challenge to the vision of the trade regime championed by the major trading nations. The development discourse has conceived the trade regime's historical significance, the regime's aims, and the relationships among its members in ways that were often fundamentally at odds with the conception preferred by most developed countries. The article explores how the development discourse has informed lawmaking initiatives by developing countries throughout the history of the trade regime. While not all of these initiatives were successful or necessarily fruitful, they show that the pursuit of development in trade lawmaking has always been more than an effort to seek exemption from trade rules.
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