TRADE AND DEVELOPMENT
The Bali Decision established the Monitoring Mechanism as the main channel for monitoring special and differential treatment (S&D) provisions contained in WTO agreements. These provisions give developing and least-developed countries special rights in multilateral trading rules. Adopted by ministers at the Ninth Ministerial Conference in Bali in 2013, the Mechanism also allows WTO members to make recommendations on ways of strengthening the provisions and making them more precise, effective and operational.
The objective of the WTO S&D provisions is to increase poorer members' trading opportunities and safeguard their interests to help them integrate more fully into the global economy. Longer transition periods to implement WTO agreements and technical assistance and training are examples of some of these provisions.
WTO members have met twice a year over the last five years in a dedicated session, as mandated by the Decision, but no submission related to the review of S&D provisions has been made. At the meeting, some members said this is a "big concern" and said they were concerned about potential repercussions for other ministerial decisions.
The Chair of the Committee, Ambassador Diego Aulestia of Ecuador, urged members to come to a common understanding on the way forward for the Monitoring Mechanism.
At the meeting, members also discussed notified regional trade agreements (RTAs) among developing countries based on factual presentations by the WTO Secretariat. Under WTO rules, members are expected to make early announcements of RTAs and to notify their RTAs to the Committee.
The Committee is mandated to consider trade arrangements between developing countries under the WTO Enabling Clause. Under discussion at this meeting were the Agadir Agreement between Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia and a partial scope agreement on trade in goods between the Dominican Republic and Panama.
The related WTO Secretariat factual reports can be accessed here:
Some members recalled the obligation under WTO rules for members to notify all RTAs in force under the transparency mechanism so that a discussion can take place among the whole WTO membership.
As Chair of the Joint Advisory Group on UNCTAD/ITC/WTO, Ambassador Cedeño of Costa Rica reported on the latest developments in the group's work, including the suggestion to set up a SheTrades certification to monitor and incentivize progress in the area of women's economic empowerment. The SheTrades initiative was launched by the International Trade Centre to promote ways of empowering women through trade.
Members also reiterated the importance of the digital economy as an engine for growth and development, including for developing countries, and reemphasized their readiness to discuss this topic in the Committee and within the WTO generally.