Issues covered by the WTO’s committees and agreements

DEVELOPMENT: SMALL ECONOMIES

Work programme on small economies

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 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.

Ministers at the Doha Ministerial Conference in 2001 agreed to establish a work programme “to frame responses to the trade-related issues identified for the fuller integration of small, vulnerable economies into the multilateral trading system”. Following this decision, the General Council agreed that:

  • the question of small economies would be a standing agenda item of the General Council;
  • the Committee on Trade and Development (CTD) will hold dedicated sessions on this question and report to the General Council; and
  • in the light of the outcome of this work, relevant subsidiary bodies will be asked by the General Council to frame responses to the trade-related issues identified in the Committee.

Ministerial or General Council decisions regarding the work programme on small economies include the decisions taken in Geneva in August 2004 (WT/L/579 para 1.D), Hong Kong in 2005 ( WT/MIN(05)/DEC para 41) , Geneva in 2011 (WT/L/844), Bali in 2013 (WT/MIN(13)/33 - WT/L/908), Nairobi in 2015 (WT/MIN(15)/40 – WT/L/975), Buenos Aires in 2017 (WT/MIN(17)/63- WT/L/1030) and Geneva in 2022 (WT/MIN(22)/25 – WT/L/1136).

A regularly updated compilation document (WT/COMTD/SE/W/22/Rev.10) reflects the state of play of all the small economies' issues discussed in WTO bodies and negotiating groups since the launch of the work programme.

More recent work under the work programme has focused on the follow-up to the Ministerial Decision taken in 2017 (WT/L/1030), which called for the dedicated session of the Committee to continue its work on the challenges small economies experience in their efforts to reduce trade costs, particularly in the area of trade facilitation. A background paper on this subject was prepared by the WTO Secretariat (WT/COMTD/SE/W/34).  

The dedicated session has also discussed a number of other issues, including the opportunities and challenges for small economies in attracting investments and the economic and trade impact of natural disasters on small economies.

In the decision on the work programme on small economies taken at the Twelfth Ministerial Conference in June 2022 (WT/L/1136), the WTO Secretariat was instructed to provide  relevant information and factual analysis for discussion among members in the Committee's dedicated session and to work on integrating small economies into the post COVID-19 economy.

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The mandate

 

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Official documents on small economies in the Committee on Trade and Development

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