Trade and development
The WTO agreements recognize the link between trade and development and contain special provisions for developing countries. More than two-thirds of WTO members are classified as developing countries.
At the Doha Ministerial Conference, in November 2001, Trade Ministers launched the Doha Development Agenda. With this Agenda, WTO members have placed development issues and the interests of developing countries at the heart of the WTO’s work.
In the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration of 2005, members emphasized the central importance of development to the Doha Round. At the same time, the Aid for Trade Initiative was launched, designed to help developing countries build supply-side capacity in order to expand trade.
At the Bali Ministerial Conference in December 2013, ministers adopted a number of decisions under the developmental pillar, including those aimed at boosting least-developed countries' trade.
> International Trade Centre (opens in new window) — Trade promotion for developing countries
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> ITC Forum (opens in new window) — Magazine of the International Trade Centre
> Development Gateway (opens in new window) — provides information tools and services to support international development.
Introduction to the WTO and developing countries back to top
- Definitions of “developing countries” and “least-developed countries” in the WTO.
- Understanding the WTO: Developing countries — overview
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Special and differential treatment provisions
Several provisions in the WTO agreements relate specifically to developing and least-developed countries(LDCs). Certain of these provisions are referred to as “special and differential treatment” provisions The latest WTO document setting out the implementation of these S&D provisions is in WT/COMTD/W/219.
Ministers in Doha, in the Decision on Implementation-Related Issues and Concerns mandated the Committee on Trade and Development to identify those special and differential provisions which are already mandatory, and to consider the implications of making mandatory those which are currently non-binding. The Committee was also asked to consider ways in which developing countries, particularly the LDCs, may be assisted to make best use of special and differential treatment.
The Bali Ministerial Conference in December 2013 established a mechanism to review and analyse the implementation of special and differential treatment provisions. The mechanism will provide members an opportunity to analyse and review all aspects of implementation of S&D provisions contained in multilateral WTO agreements, Ministerial and General Council decisions - with the possibility to make recommendations to the relevant WTO bodies.
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Least-developed countries in the WTO
Least-developed countries (LDCs) are the poorest members of the world community. Among the 49 LDCs designated by the United Nations, 34 have become WTO members (see list) while another nine LDCs are at different stages of negotiations to join the WTO.
WTO agreements include provisions aimed at increasing LDCs’ trade opportunities and allowing LDCs flexibility in implementing WTO rules. A revised WTO Work Programme for LDCs (WT/COMTD/LDC/11/Rev.1), agreed by WTO members in June 2013, looks at systemic issues of interest to LDCs in the multilateral trading system.
The WTO Bali Ministerial Conference in December 2013 adopted several decisions in favour of LDCs, to further assist their better integration into the multilateral trading system. They include: multilateral guidelines on preferential rules of origin to facilitate market access for LDC products; a decision on duty-free and quota-free (DFQF) market access for LDCs calling upon members to improve their existing DFQF coverage; a decision in the area of trade in services initiating a process to help LDCs secure preferential market access for their services and service suppliers. In addition, a decision on cotton was adopted which aims at enhancing transparency and monitoring of trade-related as well as development assistance aspect of cotton
- Nairobi Package – Ministerial decisions
- Briefing note on LDC decisions at Nairobi Ministerial Conference
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- CTD in regular session
Since the launching of the Doha Round in November 2001, trade and development issues related to special and differential treatment have been negotiated in the CTD meeting in Special Session. The current chair is .
Additionally, two WTO Working Groups were created during the Doha Ministerial Conference in November 2001:
Other WTO bodies also consider trade and development issues.
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Building trade capacity
Helping developing countries participate more fully in the global trading system is one of the aims of the WTO.
The Aid for Trade initiative helps developing countries improve their capacity to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the multilateral trading system.
The WTO’s trade-related technical assistance activities provide training to officials from developing countries to support trade capacity-building.
The WTO also supports the Enhanced Integrated Framework – the Aid for Trade programme for LDCs.
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Events on trade and development
The WTO regularly organizes a number of special events relating to issues of particular importance to developing countries each year.
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> 100th Session of the Committee on Trade and Development 24 November 2016
> Promoting Connectivity — Exploring the Services Dimension 17 October 2016
> Workshop on Aid for Trade and Infrastructure: Bridging the Financing Gap, 16 February 2015
> Workshop on Trade and Transfer of Technology, 16 June 2014