Doing so will support poorer countries in diversifying their exports away from commodities and also help them climb up the value chain in manufacturing and services, several members said at the first meeting of the Sub-Committee on LDCs since the 10th Ministerial Conference (MC10) held last December in Nairobi.

“Many MC10 outcomes are of critical importance to LDCs,” Uganda, speaking on behalf of the coordinator of the LDC group, said at the meeting.

Members had delivered, as part of the Nairobi Package, several decisions to make it easier for LDC exports to qualify for trade preferences and also enjoy preferential treatment for their services for a longer period.

Members must now ensure that their national regulators recognize these agreements for preferential treatment for LDCs, Uganda said. The LDC Group would also like members to provide them assistance in availing of trade preferences for services. Members were also asked to “develop or expand” their respective rules of origin, which provide the criteria for whether a good qualifies for preferential entry into a foreign market, in line with the agreed guidance from Nairobi.

“These are mandates given by our ministers and should therefore be achieved. The group urges WTO members towards the realization of these comprehensive objectives,” Uganda said.

Furthermore, members were requested to step up their contributions to the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF)’s activities to bolster LDC trade, as pledges so far only make up roughly a third of the intended budget.

“Current developments in the world economy pose significant challenges for LDCs,” the chair of the sub-committee, Ambassador Roderick van Schreven (Netherlands), said. “LDCs face an increased need to diversify their exports,” he said.

There is a risk of a continued decline in prices of commodities, which many LDCs produce, as world demand slows, according to an update on LDC trade trends delivered by the WTO Secretariat at the meeting.

Meanwhile, LDC imports continue to grow, which widens trade deficits and threatens macroeconomic stability, the Secretariat’s update stated. 

Nevertheless, there is a positive trend of LDCs increasing their participation in the world trade of services and also in the exports of manufactured goods, both of which are labour-intensive and thus could have a positive development impact.

Several LDCs then called for “substantive support” to help them diversify their exports and address trade deficits, noting that the Nairobi decisions are an opportunity to assist in this area.

Besides these discussions, the Sub-committee considered a secretariat note relating to follow-up of WTO decisions taken in favour of LDCs (WT/COMTD/LDC/W/62) and a received a briefing from the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) on the LDC Ministerial Conference held last November. It also was briefed on the key findings of a  study on how issues concerning sanitary and phytosanitary standards  are covered in diagnostic trade integration studies as part of the EIF process.

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