Siem Reap Fifth China Round Table
Theme: Best Practices on the Accession of Least-Developed Countries
Date: 20-23 March 2017
Location:Siem Reap, Cambodia
“WTO accession presents an opportunity for LDCs to institute domestic reforms that would foster modernization and development of their economies.”
Introduction and background
The Fifth China Round Table (CRT-05) will take place from 20 — 23 March 2017 in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Building on the first four Round Tables which were held in Beijing, China in May 2012, Luang Prabang, Lao PDR in October 2013, Dushanbe, Tajikistan in June 2015 and Nairobi, Kenya in December 2015, the CRT-05 will provide a timely platform for Article XII and acceding LDCs to exchange experiences and lessons from their accessions.
The year 2017 marks the 15th anniversary since the adoption of the 2002 General Council Guidelines on the Accession of LDCs. The implementation of these Guidelines has facilitated the conclusion of 9 LDC accessions i.e. Afghanistan, Cabo Verde, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Liberia, Nepal, Samoa, Vanuatu, and Yemen. To date, there are 8 LDC acceding governments undergoing the accession process, namely: Bhutan, Comoros, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Sao Tome et Principe, Somalia, Sudan and Timor-Leste. South Sudan has also expressed its interest to join the WTO. A WTO accession presents an opportunity for these LDCs to institute domestic reforms that would foster modernization and development of their economies.
Cambodia, which is expected to assume the role of the WTO LDC Group Coordinator for 2017, is one of the leading LDCs in terms of trade and economic performance and is ready to share its accession negotiations and membership experiences with its fellow LDC members and observers. Moreover, 2017 is the year of the WTO Ministerial Conference, and two LDC governments, Comoros and Sudan, have expressed their commitment to acceding to the WTO by the Eleventh Ministerial Conference (MC11) in December 2017 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The CRT-05 will provide a timely opportunity to discuss how to accelerate these accessions towards the MC11.
In reviewing the experiences of LDC accession processes, the CRT-05 will reflect on the following questions:
- What lessons can be drawn from the nine concluded LDC accessions concluded to date? In particular, what specific lessons could be drawn from the 2015/16 accession of Liberia?
- What has been the trend of the contributions of LDC accessions to the multilateral trading system, in terms of rules and market access?
- What is the state of play on the remaining LDC accessions? How can Members and the international trade community support early conclusion of the accessions of Comoros and Sudan?
- How can Members enhance their support to LDC accessions and post-accession in order to facilitate the integration of LDCs into the global economy?
Overview of LDC Accessions
Pursuant to Article XII of the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization, there are 9 LDCs that have acceded to the WTO since the establishment of the Organization in 1995, namely: Cambodia and Nepal in 2004; Cabo Verde in 2008; Samoa and Vanuatu in 2012; Lao PDR in 2013; Yemen in 2014; and, Afghanistan and Liberia in 2016. In total, these 9 LDCs constitute 25 per cent of the 36 completed accessions to date.
The conclusion of these LDC accessions has been facilitated by the implementation of the Guidelines on LDCs’ Accession, adopted by the General Council in 2002 (WT/L/508), pursuant to the call by WTO Ministers at the Doha Conference in 2001 to facilitate and accelerate negotiations with acceding LDCs (paragraph 42 of the Doha Ministerial Declaration). At the time of the adoption, there were no LDCs which had joined the WTO since its establishment, and there were 7 LDCs queuing for accession. In 2012, the General Council adopted the Addendum to the 2002 Guidelines for LDCs’ Accessions to strengthen, streamline and operationalize the 2012 Guidelines on LDCs’ Accessions.(1)
The WTO Director-General has underscored the vital importance of Members to be cognizant of these Guidelines in facilitating negotiations with LDCs. Members have been mindful of these Guidelines in negotiating with acceding LDCs.
The implementation of these guidelines is reviewed regularly in the agenda of the Sub-Committee on LDCs in the WTO, which provides a platform to review the state of play on the accessions of LDCs on an annual basis, as well as the work on post-accession.
LDC Accessions — Process and Results
Article XII LDC Members have used WTO accession as a platform to launch a structural transformation of the economy by undertaking a series of economy-wide reforms and locking them in the multilateral framework. Out of the 9 LDC accessions concluded to date, 8 have cited economic reforms as one of the main reasons to seek WTO membership, as reflected in their introductory statements in the Working Party Reports. Evidence has shown that WTO accessions have had far-reaching impact on policy-making, legal and economic and structural reforms.(2)
The average duration of an LDC accession is 12 years 9 months, slightly longer than the overall average duration for all Article XII Members at 10 years 4 months. However, experience from past LDC accession processes has revealed some key elements that can facilitate the expedited conclusion of LDC accessions.
These include: high level political commitment which is sine qua non for all stages of the accession process; securing technical assistance from the international community to facilitate the institutionalization of the required accession-specific reforms; efficient internal stakeholder coordination mechanisms led by a proactive Chief Negotiator; formulating a strategic negotiation strategy guided by the fundamental principles of the multilateral trading system on topical negotiating issues such as trade and investment, tariff concessions, agriculture and TRIPS; active engagement with Members of the Working Party; technical advice and facilitation by the Working Party Chairperson and the WTO Secretariat; and, adhering to a time-bound target for conclusion of the accession process.(3)
Evidence has also shown that Article XII LDC members, which have gone through rigorous accession processes and made deeper commitments, have performed better than original LDC WTO members, in terms of economic performance, investment attraction and membership engagement. Illustratively, since 2007, Article XII LDC Members have exhibited a higher annual GDP growth rate at 4.3% than the Article XII Members as a whole at 3.5%, except during the global financial crises. Two Members that acceded as LDCs i.e. Cabo Verde and Samoa graduated from LDC status in 2007 and 2014, respectively. Vanuatu has also been recommended to graduate in 2018.
In total, the 9 LDCs made 236 accession-specific commitments on various aspects of their trade policy. It should be noted that all LDCs made commitments in 17 out of the 38 specific areas. From the first two LDC accessions of Nepal and Cambodia in 2004, the depth of these commitments has been increasing to date.(4) This can be attributed to the negotiating requirements made by the expanding membership. The conjecture is that each subsequent LDC accessions are expected to build on the existing LDC Accession Acquis.
Support to LDC accessions
Recognizing the human capital and resource constraints of LDCs, a combination of generalized start-up technical assistance activities with tailored accession-specific activities has been provided by the Members and the Secretariat, occasionally in partnership with other institutions, to acceding LDCs at all stages of their WTO accession process.
The WTO has a Biennial Technical Assistance and Training Plan for each year which establishes support for acceding governments as one of its overarching objectives. The Plan grants priority attention to acceding LDCs. Technical assistance and capacity-building activities include: (i) national seminars; (ii) sessions on accessions in advanced trade policy courses, regional courses and introductory courses for LDCs; (iii) workshops; (iv) technical missions; (v) establishment/upgrade of WTO Reference Centres; (vi) e-Learning; (vii) outreach dialogue with WTO groupings; and, (viii) participation in conferences.
To facilitate LDCs accessions, the Government of China, in collaboration with the WTO established the China “Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Accessions Programme” (hereafter: the China Programme) on 14 July 2011. The China Programme is aimed at strengthening LDCs’ participation in the WTO and assisting LDCs acceding to the WTO. It is an accession-specific focused programme that takes account of the concerns and priorities of LDCs. The China Programme comprises five pillars: (i) WTO Accessions Internship Programme; (ii) Annual WTO Accessions Round Table; (iii) LDCs’ participation in WTO meetings; (iv) South-South dialogue on LDCs and development; and, (v) LDCs’ Trade Policy Review follow-up workshops.
In addition to the provision of support during accession, increasingly, the focus has been given to the post-accession phase, period. In 2016, the WTO Secretariat developed an integrated approach to post-accession support, structured around four pillars; i) Specific Post-Accession Implementation Strategy; ii) Specialized training on WTO post-accession; iii) “Best Practices on WTO Post-Accession” (WT/ACC/27); and, iv) Internal Post-Accession Implementation and Monitoring. As a result, the most recent Article XII LDCs, such as Afghanistan, have ratified their Accession Protocols, deposited their instruments of acceptance and submitted all their initial notifications within defined timeframes.
- WT/L/508/Add.1, 30 July 2012. back to text
- See Section V “WTO Accession Template for Structural Reforms and Economic Diversification” in the 2016 DG Annual Report on WTO Accessions (WT/ACC/28). back to text
- WTO Document “Cambodia’s Accession to the WTO: Lessons Learned”back to text
- See forthcoming Secretariat Note on “The Best Practices on the Accessions of Least developed countries”back to text
For more information on the overall ‘China’s LDCs and Accessions programme’, including background on the key pillars of the programme, please click here.
For the respective pillars:
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