The declaration calls for discussions on establishing a work programme for LLDCs in the WTO to monitor their needs, challenges and vulnerabilities and to develop strategies to boost their participation in the multilateral trading system. In addition to the challenges of high trade costs and dependence on transit countries to trade internationally, LLDCs are facing new challenges, such as container shortages, high shipping costs, climate change vulnerability and limited access to COVID-19 vaccines, the declaration notes.

A total of 14 ministers highlighted the worsening situation for LLDCs due to the pandemic, which are already in a fragile predicament. They underscored the essential role that international trade can play in supporting LLDCs' economic recovery and the importance of the tools available at the WTO for developing countries.

DG Okonjo-Iweala praised LLDCs for being “clear on their shared objectives and [how they] can constructively work with other members to ensure that issues of concern are reflected in the outcome of the 12th Ministerial Conference.” She called on LLDCs to contribute to making MC12 a success, stressing that “the LLDC group is a key test of the multilateral trading system's ability to deliver for all WTO members”.

The ministerial meeting “provides a critical opportunity to assess and strengthen LLDCs' collective position in multilateral trade negotiations and to ensure that the concerns of LLDC members are taken into account,” Mongolia's Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Munkhjin Batsumber, said in the opening session. Mongolia is currently coordinating the LLDC Group in Geneva.

The declaration approved by the LLDC ministers calls for simplified requirements concerning goods in transit, further digitalization of trade and customs procedures,a review of how non-tariff measures apply to goods in transit, andgreateraccess to trade finance and to capacity-building programmes, among other things.

The declaration also calls for full implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement and harnessing the Aid for Trade initiative to address LLDCs' trade-related constraints. “Research by the World Economic Forum suggests that the WTO's Trade Facilitation Agreement implementation could trigger a 60 per cent to 80 per cent increase in cross-border small and medium enterprises sales,” Kazakhstan's Minister of Trade and Integration, Bakhyt Sultanov, noted. Kazakhstan will be co-hosting MC12 and is the current Chair of the LLDCs.

The declaration can be found here.

The UN High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS), Courtenay Rattray, called for an “urgent in-depth focus support to assist LLDCs' recovery from COVID-19 as well as to build more resilient economies post COVID-19.”

“Restoring LLDCs' capacity to trade means that development partners need to support LLDCs to develop their productive capacities, diversify their economies, increase value-addition to their exports and further integrate into global and regional value chains,” Mr Batsumber said.

“According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, in 2020, the global economy declined by 4.3 per cent, and LLDCs’ economies are estimated to have contracted by 2.4 per cent,” Mr Batsumber noted. The UN's Vienna Programme of Action for LLDCs for the Decade 2014-2024 recommends actions to be undertaken by LLDCs, transit countries and development partners to support LLDCs' economic development. The Deputy Minister called for “an intensification of efforts from all stakeholders to recover and achieve meaningful progress by 2024”.

The severe toll of the COVID-19 pandemic on LLDC's participation in world trade was evidenced by a WTO report submitted to the UN-OHRLLS in April 2021. More information can be found here.

total of 32 countries are categorized as LLDCs. Of these, 26 are WTO members and six are observers.




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