The Agreement on the Global System of Trade Preferences Among Developing Countries (GSTP) was established in 1988 as a framework for the exchange of trade preferences among developing countries in order to promote intra-developing-country trade. The idea received its first political expression at the 1976 ministerial meeting of the Group of 77 (G77) in Mexico City and was further developed at G77 ministerial meetings in Arusha (1979) and Caracas (1981).

In 1982, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Group of 77 in New York defined the basic components of the Agreement and established a framework for negotiations. In 1984, the G77 began preparatory work in Geneva on various aspects of a framework agreement. In 1985, the New Delhi ministerial meeting provided further impetus to the process of negotiations in Geneva. The ministerial meeting in Brasilia in 1986 established the provisional framework of the Agreement and launched the first round of negotiations on preferential trade concessions. In 1988, the text of the Agreement was adopted and the first round of negotiations concluded in Belgrade.

The Agreement was envisaged as a dynamic instrument of economic cooperation, proceeding with step-by-step negotiations in successive stages. Following a comprehensive review of the operations of the Agreement since its entry into force in 1989, the Committee of Participants recently decided to launch a new round of negotiations to broaden and deepen the scope of tariff preferences. Ministers of GSTP Participants met in São Paulo tonight, in the context of UNCTAD XI, to launch the new negotiations.

Following are several principles and features of the Agreement:

  • The GSTP is reserved for the exclusive participation of members of the Group of 77 and China and the benefits accrue to those members that are also "participants" in the Agreement.
  • The GSTP must be based and applied on the principle of mutuality of advantages in such a way as to benefit equitably all participants, taking into account their respective levels of economic development and trade needs. The Agreement recognizes the special needs of the LDCs and envisages concrete preferential measures in their favour.
  • To provide a stable basis for GSTP preferential trade, tariff preferences are bound and form part of the Agreement.
  • The GSTP must be negotiated step-by-step and improved and extended in successive stages, with periodic reviews.
  • The GSTP must supplement and reinforce present and future subregional, regional and interregional economic groupings of developing countries and must take into account their concerns and commitments.