TRADE AND DEVELOPMENT

WTO members sought on 27 April to advance discussions on ten Agreement-specific proposals tabled by a large group of WTO developing countries and least-developed countries (LDCs) which would operationalize existing special and differential provisions and make them more precise and effective. The WTO’s agreements contain over 150 provisions for developing countries and LDCs, which include access to technical assistance activities and longer transition periods to implement agreements.

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At a meeting of the Committee on Trade and Development in Special Session, the chair, Ambassador Kadra Ahmed Hassan of Dijbouti, encouraged WTO members to talk to each other to determine how progress can be made in the negotiations on special treatment for developing countries. Speaking on 27 April as part of a series of meetings she launched on 8 February, she reiterated her commitment to work with delegations to find compromise ahead of the WTO's Ministerial Conference to be held from 30 November to 3 December.

The WTO G90 group of developing country proposals under review at the meeting concerned technical barriers to trade and customs valuation. South Africa, on behalf of the G90, outlined the challenges faced by developing countries in complying with technical regulations and standards for traded goods and highlighted the need for certain flexibilities in implementing the WTO's Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade. The proposal on customs valuation seeks to address the lack of resources faced by customs administrations in LDCs, particularly in relation to valuation issues.

The proponents argue that the proposals will contribute to advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), notably:

  • SDG 17.11, which aims to significantly increase developing countries’ share of global exports
  • SDG 8.A on the role of the Aid for Trade initiative in helping developing countries build their trade infrastructure, and
  • SDG 10.A on the implementation of the principle of special and differential treatment for developing countries and LDCs.

While some delegations expressed support for the proposals, others recalled that these proposals have been discussed several times in the Committee in special session, and that concerns remain. There were calls for new approaches to address the issue of special and differential treatment for developing countries.

The chair said: “As difficult as these negotiations have been, I believe it is in the interest of members — and the Organization — to find a way to move forward. I would also stress once again that it is in the hands of members to determine a new approach and a way forward in the Committee on Trade and Development in Special Session.”

In closing the meeting, she indicated that she will carefully consider what was discussed, with a view to assessing how to move forward on the two proposals. She encouraged all delegations to do the same.

The negotiations taking place in the Special Session of the Trade and Development Committee are mandated by Paragraph 44 of the 2001 Doha Ministerial Declaration.

More information on special and differential treatment can be found here.

The latest analysis of existing special and differential treatment provisions by the WTO Secretariat can be found here.

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