From a speech by WTO DG Pascal Lamy:
Agreement is still lacking on the balance of contributions and benefits between the US, the EU, Japan and the like on the one side, and India, China, Brazil and the like on the other side. Advanced economies argue that emerging economies have now “emerged” and should therefore accept a trade regime that is similar to theirs. Emerging countries argue that they still face daunting development challenges which require flexibilities in the form of “special and differential treatment”, as we say in the WTO, or what the UN climate process calls “common but differentiated responsibilities”. Behind this conundrum lies a simple geopolitical question: are emerging countries “rich countries with many poor people” or “poor countries with many rich people”? Until and unless both sides agree on the answer, consensus in major multilateral negotiations will remain elusive.
In my view, the answer is also geopolitical. It requires agreement on three principles.
Principle one, emerging countries must accept that, as they develop, they will align their level of international commitments to those of advanced economies.
Principle two, advanced economies must recognise that, given their own historical responsibilities in existing global warming and the remaining unfairness in trade rules, emerging countries deserve long transition periods to converge towards common commitments.
Principle three, for the poorest countries, whether on trade or on climate change, the issue is less what level of commitments and more how to help them build the capacity to be active members of the international family.
If convergence could be found on these principles, I am convinced that the technicalities of trade or environment reforms could rapidly emerge.
I think this is an excellent statement of principles. Obviously, the practical implementation of these principles has been difficult, though!