LDC graduation refers to the point when an LDC meets certain United Nations development criteria and is no longer defined an LDC. LDCs are accorded special treatment in the WTO, in particular with regard to enhanced market access opportunities and policy flexibilities. While graduating from the LDC category is a major development achievement, this process comes with challenges, the discussants noted.

DG Okonjo-Iweala noted that the WTO's upcoming 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) will be an occasion for the WTO membership to address the opportunities and challenges of LDC graduation.

“MC12 is around the corner,” she said. “We have an excellent opportunity to deliver an outcome for LDCs, an outcome that can serve as a springboard for LDCs' greater integration into the multilateral trading system”.

The two-day event brought together LDC trade and development partners, representatives from several international organizations and trade experts to review possible trade impacts of LDC graduation on market access opportunities, the implementation of WTO rules, and development cooperation.

Several experts highlighted the importance of LDCs actively engaging in different discussions in the WTO to help accelerate their economic development and contribute to the multilateral trading system that better reflects their interests.

Chad's WTO Ambassador and coordinator of the WTO's LDC Group of members, Mr Ahmad Makaila, said: “With one third of the LDCs on the path of graduation, LDC graduation has become an important priority for the LDCs which was reiterated in the latest LDC Trade Ministers' Declaration. We need to ensure a smooth and sustainable graduation that enables our greater integration into global economy.”

Ambassador Makalia also expressed appreciation for the efforts by the international community to assist LDCs in becoming more active players in global trade and thanked the WTO Secretariat for helping LDCs better understand the potential trade implications of LDC graduation.

Deputy Director-General Xiangchen Zhang underscored the importance of the WTO's technical assistance and training programmes to help LDCs boost their participation in the multilateral trading system. He called on LDCs to actively engage in the WTO's work and to continue pursuing their trade-related interests.

The event is an integral part of the joint initiative by the WTO and the Enhanced Integrated Framework to help LDCs better understand the potential consequences of their graduation on their trade opportunities. The WTO and the EIF also examined the health and trade impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on graduating LDCs.

A 2020 WTO report provides an overview of possible trade-related implications of LDC graduation in terms of LDCs' participation in the multilateral trading system, market access opportunities and development assistance.  

Currently, 16 LDCs are on the path of graduating from the LDC status. Ten are WTO members: Angola, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Djibouti, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Nepal, Senegal, Solomon Islands and Zambia. Four are in the process of WTO accession: Comoros, Bhutan, Sao Tome and Principe and Timor-Leste. Other two LDCs are Kiribati and Tuvalu.

More information on the event can be found here.




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