9TH WTO MINISTERIAL CONFERENCE, BALI, 2013
Briefing note: Small, vulnerable economies
Small, vulnerable economies (SVEs)1 are those WTO members that account for only a small percentage of world trade. WTO members recognize that these economies, while not forming an official sub-category of members, face specific challenges due to their small size and the distance which separates them from their key trading partners. Members therefore agreed in 2002 on a Work Programme on Small Economies as part of the Doha Declaration.
Updated: November 2013
THIS EXPLANATION is designed to help the public understand developments in the WTO. While every effort has been made to ensure the contents are accurate, it does not prejudice member governments’ positions.
The Work Programme is carried out in dedicated sessions of the Committee on Trade and Development under a two-track approach.
The first track focuses on the mandate given to the Working Group in paragraph 35 of the Doha Declaration to use the proposals made by the proponents of SVEs to frame responses to help small economies with their integration into the multilateral trading system.
The second track calls for monitoring proposals made by small economy proponents in the negotiating groups and other bodies. This includes following proposals in several areas of the Doha Round negotiations, mainly in agriculture, industrial goods, services, rules, including fisheries subsidies, trade facilitation, and in regular WTO bodies such as the Committee on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures. A compilation of these proposals is available in document WT/COMTD/SE/W/22/Rev.6.
Over the past two years, members have discussed follow-up activities and work related to the December 2011 Ministerial Decision on the Small Economies Work Programme (WT/L/844). They have emphasized the need for more factual analysis on the trade issues facing SVEs, especially in regard to non-tariff measures (NTMs), an area highlighted in the decision taken at the WTO's Eighth Ministerial Conference. Since then, members have welcomed two WTO Secretariat papers on how NTMs affect the exports of SVEs (WT/COMTD/SE/W/26 and WT/COMTD/SE/W/28). They were also able to broaden their understanding of NTMs at a workshop held on 23 October 2013. Members heard from NTM experts from intergovernmental organizations about the effects of NTMs on the exports of small economies and from government representatives about what their countries were doing to meet the challenges posed by certain NTMs. Discussion also focused on what trading partners were doing in the area of providing specific capacity-building efforts to assist small economies.
In preparation for the WTO’s Ninth Ministerial Conference, SVEs adopted a report on the Work Programme on Small Economies. The report WT/COMTD/SE/8 has been forwarded to the General Council with specific recommendations to Ministers.
1. The term “small, vulnerable economies” applies to members with economies that, in the period 1999 to 2004, had an average share of (a) world merchandise trade of no more than 0.16 per cent or less, and (b) world trade in non-agricultural products of no more than 0.1 per cent and (c) world trade in agricultural products of no more than 0.4 per cent (TN/AG/W/4/Rev.4 paragraph. 157).