Issues covered by the WTO’s committees and agreements

DEVELOPMENT: SMALL ECONOMIES

Work programme on small economies

Small economies face specific challenges in participating in world trade due to lack of economy of scale or limited natural resources, for example. The Doha Declaration mandates the General Council to make recommendations as to what trade-related measures could improve the integration of small economies into the multilateral trading system, without creating a separate category of WTO members.

Following the agreement by ministers at the Doha Ministerial Conference to establish a work programme “to frame responses to the trade-related issues identified for the fuller integration of small, vulnerable economies into the multilateral trading system”, the General Council agreed that:

  • the question of small economies would be a standing agenda item of the General Council;
  • the Committee on Trade and Development (CTD) will hold dedicated sessions on this question and report to the General Council; and
  • in the light of the outcome of this work, relevant subsidiary bodies will be asked by the General Council to frame responses to the trade-related issues identified in the Committee.

In November 2005, prior to the Sixth Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong, the Committee's Dedicated Session on Small Economies adopted its report to the General Council. This report was issued as document WT/COMTD/SE/4.

Since the launch of the Doha Round, a number of additional Ministerial or General Council decisions regarding the work programme on small economies have been taken. These include the decisions taken in Geneva in August 2004 (WT/L/579 para 1.D), Hong Kong in 2005 ( WT/MIN(05)/DEC para 41) , Geneva in 2009 (WT/COMTD/SE/6) and 2011 (WT/L/844), Bali in 2013 (WT/MIN(13)/33 - WT/L/908), Nairobi in 2015 (WT/MIN(15)/40 – WT/L/975) and Buenos Aires in 2017 (WT/MIN(17)/63- WT/L/1030). A regularly updated compilation document (WT/COMTD/SE/W/22/Rev.8) reflects the state of play of all the small economies' issues discussed in WTO bodies and negotiating groups since the launch of the work programme.

More recent work under the work programme has focused on the follow-up to the Ministerial Decision taken in 2015 (WT/L/975), which called for the dedicated session of the Committee to continue its work on the challenges and opportunities experienced by small economies when linking into global value chains in trade in goods and services and to conduct work on the challenges small economies experience in their efforts to reduce trade costs, particularly in the area of trade facilitation . Two background papers on these subjects were prepared by the WTO Secretariat (WT/COMTD/SE/W/31 andWT/COMTD/SE/W/34). They formed the basis for the work of the Committee's  dedicated sessions in 2016 and 2017.

A decision on the work programme on small economies was taken at the Eleventh Ministerial Conference in December 2017 (WT/L/1030). The WTO Secretariat was instructed to provide  relevant information and factual analysis for discussion among members in the Committee's dedicated session and  to continue its work on the challenges small economies experience in their efforts to reduce trade costs, particularly in the area of trade facilitation.

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The mandate

 

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Official documents on small economies in the Committee on Trade and Development

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