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


WTO negotiations on implementation of LDC modalities

The negotiations on LDC modalities aim to increase the participation of least-developed countries in services trade.

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The negotiations are based primarily on GATS Article IV:3, which requires WTO members to give “special priority” to LDCs in facilitating through negotiated specific commitments:

  • the strengthening of domestic services capacity and efficiency
  • the improvement of access to distribution channels and information networks
  • the liberalization of market access in sectors and modes of supply of export interest.

To guide members in achieving these objectives, a set of LDC modalities has been established. It directs members, in making specific commitments, to give special priority to providing “effective market access” in sectors and modes of supply of export interest to LDCs.  It further stipulates that members work to develop “appropriate mechanisms” with a view to achieving full implementation of Article IV:3.

Finally, the set of LDC modalities requires members, to the extent possible, to consider making commitments providing access in Mode 4 (individuals travelling from their own country to supply services in another), taking into account all categories of natural persons identified by LDCs in their requests.

At the ministerial gathering in July 2008, members took the view that the special priority for LDCs mentioned in Article IV:3 could be assured in large part through a waiver mechanism. 

In December 2011, the eighth Ministerial Conference adopted a waiver which allows WTO members to deviate from their most-favoured nation obligation of non-discrimination in order to grant preferential treatment to service suppliers (including under Mode 4) from LDC members.