Developing countries' participation in electronic commerce

In a paper entitled "Global Electronic Commerce for Inclusive Development", India and South Africa suggested that members reflect on how to improve digital infrastructure in developing countries, facilitate the transfer of digital technology transfers and address the financial constraints that developing countries face with cross-border e-commerce.

The paper states that by limiting developing countries' ability to impose tariffs on their growing imports of electronic transmissions, the e‑commerce moratorium on electronic transmissions represents a loss in tariff revenue. While some delegations agreed, others noted that while developing countries' participation in e-commerce should be strengthened, extending the moratorium at the 12th Ministerial Conference to take place in mid-June will be beneficial to all WTO members. Ministers have agreed at previous Ministerial Conferences to continue the practice of not imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions.

Capacity-building activities for developing countries

The WTO's Institute for Training and Technical Cooperation said that requests for national technical assistance activities have considerably dropped in 2020 and 2021 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The reason is that many WTO members and observers opted to postpone their requests until face-to-face activities could resume.

The Secretariat encouraged beneficiaries to share their technical assistance requirements, adding that least-developed country (LDC) requests will continue to be prioritized. The WTO intends to progressively resume face-to-face activities, starting with national events, COVID-19 conditions permitting, taking into account the lessons learned from the pandemic.

The International Trade Centre (ITC) reported nearly 400,000 active users of trade intelligence tools in 2020, and said it has helped over 18,000 micro, small and medium sized enterprises undertake international business transactions across developing countries the same year. This exceeds ITC's targets, the representative noted. The ITC also reached its goal of connecting 3 million women to international markets by the end of 2021.

Preferential treatment for LDCs' exports

In an update on its duty-free treatment for LDCs, China said it has increased the percentage of tariff lines qualifying for duty-free treatment from 97 to 98 per cent of products from LDCs with which China holds diplomatic relations. To date, three LDCs are benefitting from China's new preferential treatment.

Regional trade agreements and preferential trade arrangements

At a meeting of the Committee on Trade and Development's Dedicated Session on Regional Trade Agreements held the same day, WTO members took note of changes to the goods aspects of the Framework Agreement on the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China. The member countries of the Latin American Integration Association (LAIA) reported 472 notifications of agreements concluded under the association's umbrella. Also under consideration was the Free Trade Agreement between Morocco and the United Arab Emirates.

The accords that members notify constitute the basis for a factual presentation prepared by the WTO Secretariat and questions and replies between WTO members. Although deviating from the WTO principle of non-discrimination, these agreements are allowed under WTO rules to further developing countries' integration into the global trading system. This exchange takes place in accordance with the WTO's Transparency Mechanism for Regional Trade Agreements.

The full list of notified regional trade agreements between WTO members can be found here.

Notifications of modifications to the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) schemes of the United States and Norway were presented at the committee's dedicated session on preferential trade arrangements also held on 25 March.

WTO rules allow developed countries to grant preferential conditions to imports from developing countries through non-reciprocal preferential schemes. Information on the Generalized System of Preferences schemes and other non-reciprocal preferential schemes of WTO members can be found here.

Global Review of Aid for Trade

The Committee chair, Ambassador Muhammad Mujtaba Piracha of Pakistan, announced that the next Global Review of Aid for Trade will be held from 27 to 29 July, under the theme "Empowering Connected, Sustainable Trade".

The Global Review is a public forum where the results of monitoring and evaluation of Aid for Trade initiatives are shared and the future priorities of developing countries and their financing partners surveyed, with a view to advancing the WTO-led Aid for Trade agenda. Information about previous Global Reviews is available here.

Advancing work of the Committee

Ambassador Piracha reported on his consultations with WTO members on advancing the Committee's work and on identifying possible new areas for the Committee to address. He encouraged members to continue discussing areas where there are divergent views. More information can be found here.

At the end of the meeting, Ambassador Usha Chandnee Dwarka-Canabady (Mauritius) was elected as the 2022 chair of the Committee.

Many members took the floor to express their strong opposition to the invasion of Ukraine. The Russian delegate responded by saying that the WTO was not the proper venue for a discussion of this nature.




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