How can LDCs ensure they continue to benefit from special and differential treatment in the WTO?
Mike Humphrey - Senior Trade Advisor IIT - As most international-trade observers are aware, debate is currently raging about the World Trade Organization’s relevance and role, its need for organisational reform, and the lack of progress in the Doha Round. Special and differential treatment (S&DT) provisions are an important component of this wider debate, and particularly the question of which countries should benefit from them - an issue intimately tied to the matter of self-designation.
Presently, there’s still widespread support for granting S&DT to least-developed countries (LDCs) to help their development; doing so for some developing countries is far more contentious. Developed and developing countries self-designate in the WTO, whereas LDCs do not. LDCs are clearly defined using a combination of their gross national income (GNI) per capita, and their rankings in the Human Assets and Economic Vulnerability indices.
Nevertheless, in the current climate even LDCs cannot take S&DT concessions for granted. If they are to retain them, it’s essential that they convince other WTO Members that the concessions:
• remain vital for their economic development
• will result in real changes facilitating their further integration into the international trading system
• aren’t simply the result of their “entitlements as LDCs”
• aren’t being used to avoid implementing rules or commitments undertaken by non-LDC Members.
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