Topics handled by WTO committees and agreementsIssues covered by the WTO’s committees and agreements

Who are the developing countries in the WTO?

Developing countries comprise a majority of the WTO membership. They are grouped as “developing countries” and “least developed countries”, in accordance with the criteria set out below.

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Developing Countries in “Understanding the WTO”

Definition of a “developing country” in the WTO back to top

How is the selection made? 

There are no WTO definitions of “developed” and “developing” countries. Members announce for themselves whether they are “developed” or “developing” countries. However, other members can challenge the decision of a member to make use of provisions available to developing countries.

What are the advantages of “developing country” status? 

Developing country status in the WTO brings certain rights. There are for example provisions in some WTO Agreements which provide developing countries with longer transition periods before they are required to fully implement the agreement and developing countries can receive technical assistance.

That a WTO member announces itself as a developing country does not automatically mean that it will benefit from the unilateral preference schemes of some of the developed country members such as the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP). In practice, it is the preference giving country which decides the list of developing countries that will benefit from the preferences. For more information about the GSP, see the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)’s website, (opens in a new window).


“Least-developed countries” in the WTO back to top

For more information on least-developed countries, see the UNCTAD Website, (opens in a new window).