Topics handled by WTO committees and agreementsIssues covered by the WTO’s committees and agreements

DEVELOPMENT: COMMITTEES AND WORKING GROUPS

Committee on Trade and Development

The Committee on Trade and Development serves as a focal point for the consideration and coordination of work on development in the WTO. It considers a broad range of issues relating to the trade of developing countries.

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Technical assistance programmes back to top

The Committee on Trade and Development is mandated to provide guidelines for the technical assistance activities of the WTO and to review periodically these activities. The WTO's biennial technical assistance and training plan is approved by the Committee before it is implemented. The plan for 2014-2015 can be found here.

  

Special and differential treatment provisions back to top

The Doha Ministerial Declaration of November 2001 states that all special and differential treatment (S&D) provisions for developing countries will be reviewed, with a view to strengthening them and making them more precise, effective and operational. A work programme on S&D has been initiated, with negotiations taking place in the Committee meeting in special session.

At the Bali Ministerial Conference in December 2013, a Monitoring Mechanism on S&D was established (WT/L/920) to analyse and review the implementation of S&D provisions and to make recommendations to the relevant WTO bodies. The Mechanism operates in a dedicated session of the Committee.

  

Small economies back to top

Small economies face specific challenges in participating in world trade, due to lack of economy of scale or limited natural resources, for example. The Doha Declaration mandates the General Council to examine these problems and to make recommendations as to what trade-related measures could improve the integration of small economies into the multilateral trading system, without creating a separate category of WTO members.

On 1 March 2002, the General Council agreed that small economies would be a standing item on its agenda and that the Committee would hold dedicated sessions on this matter and report regularly. For more on the work programme on small economies, see here.

  

Aid for Trade back to top

The Aid for Trade initiative is regularly discussed in the Committee. A biennial work programme guides the work of the Committee, with workshops held regularly on topics of interest to WTO members. On 15 December 2006, the General Council, upon the recommendation of the Director-General, instructed the Committee to conduct periodic global reviews to evaluate and monitor progress on the Aid for Trade initiative.

At the Ninth Ministerial Conference in December 2013, a Ministerial Decision on Aid for Trade was taken (WT/L/909). The decision reaffirmed members' commitment to the initiative, recognizing the continuing need for Aid for Trade in developing countries, and in particular least-developed countries (LDCs).

  

Other work back to top

Eighth Ministerial Conference

At the Eighth Ministerial Conference in December 2011, ministers reaffirmed the positive link between trade and development and called for focused work in the Committee. They also called on members to fully operationalize the mandate of the Committee as a focal point for development work.

Starting in early 2012, members held several rounds of discussions on what the Committee could do to fulfil these instructions from ministers. A number of proposals from members were considered. These discussions resulted in the preparation by the WTO Secretariat of an updated document on the implementation of S&D provisions in the WTO agreements and decisions (WT/COMTD/W/196).

Regional trade agreements and preferential schemes

The Committee serves as the forum for the notification and review of regional trade agreements (RTAs) between developing countries. It also reviews non-reciprocal preferential schemes favouring developing countries authorized under the Enabling Clause, in particular the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) – programmes by developed countries granting preferential tariffs to imports from developing countries.

On 14 December 2006, the General Council adopted a decision on a Transparency Mechanism for Regional Trade Arrangements WT/L/671. This decision instructs the Committee to implement the RTA Transparency Mechanism for agreements falling under paragraph 2(c) of the Enabling Clause which permits preferential arrangements among developing countries in goods trade. Under the Transparency Mechanism, WTO members negotiating a new RTA are required to provide to the WTO information on the RTA, including its scope, any foreseen timetable for its entry into force and any other relevant information.

The decision also provides that the Committee will meet in dedicated session to perform the functions established under the Mechanism. This includes considering the notified RTAs on the basis of a factual presentation by the WTO Secretariat.

The Committee also implements the Transparency Mechanism for Preferential Trade Arrangements (PTAs), which was established by the General Council decision of 14 December 2010 (WT/L/806). This mechanism applies to the non-reciprocal preferential schemes of WTO members. The Committee meets in dedicated session to consider notified PTAs.

For more on RTAs and PTAs, see here.

Electronic commerce

On 25 September 1998, the General Council adopted a work programme on electronic commerce (WT/L/274). The Committee is one of four subsidiary bodies of the General Council that has been instructed to implement the programme. A number of ministerial decisions have subsequently reinforced the programme. For more on the WTO's work on e-commerce, see here.

The Committee's focus has been on the development implications of electronic commerce. A number of seminars and workshops have been held. The most recent workshop, held on 8 and 9 April 2013, was on “Electronic Commerce, Development and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises”.

Duty-free quota-free implementation review

At the Hong Kong Ministerial Conference in December 2005, a decision was taken on the provision of duty-free and quota–free (DFQF) market access to products originating in LDCs (Annex F of the Hong Kong Declaration). As stipulated in the decision, the Committee annually reviews the steps taken by members to provide DFQF market access to LDCs.

A further decision on DFQF market access for LDCs was taken at the Ninth Ministerial Conference in December 2013 (WT/L/919). The Committee was instructed to continue its annual reviews. A WTO Secretariat report on members' DFQF schemes is to be prepared.

Developing countries and the multilateral trading system

The Committee has a mandate to keep under continuous review the participation of developing country members in the multilateral trading system. To assist the Committee in its review, the WTO Secretariat periodically prepares an update to its statistical paper on the participation of developing countries in global trade. The most recent update can be found here.

 

 

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Preferential trade arrangements

In the WTO, preferential trade arrangements (PTAs) are unilateral trade preferences. They include General System of Preference schemes (under which developed countries grant preferential tariffs to imports from developing countries) as well as other non-reciprocal preferential schemes granted a waiver by the General Council. Information on PTAs notified to the WTO is available in the PTA Database.