TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Feb12/03)
18 February 2012
Third World Network

Work begins on streamlining LDC accession process
Published in SUNS #7292 dated 23 January 2012

Geneva, 20 Jan (Kanaga Raja) -- The WTO Sub-Committee on Least Developed Countries (LDCs) on Friday agreed to begin informal consultations on developing recommendations to "further strengthen, streamline and operationalize" the LDC accession guidelines first adopted in 2002.

According to trade officials, this is in line with a decision (WT/L/846) adopted by ministers at the eighth WTO ministerial conference that took place from 15-17 December 2011.

According to the decision, one of seven decisions adopted at that ministerial conference, Ministers reaffirmed the LDC accession guidelines adopted in 2002.

"Taking note of the accession proposal made by the LDCs, we direct the Sub-Committee on LDCs to develop recommendations to further strengthen, streamline and operationalize the 2002 guidelines by, inter alia, including benchmarks, in particular in the area of goods, which take into account the level of commitments undertaken by existing LDC Members. Benchmarks in the area of services should also be explored.

"We recognize that transparency in the accession negotiations should be enhanced, including by complementing bilateral market access negotiations with multilateral frameworks.

"We reiterate that S&D [special and differential treatment] provisions, as stipulated in the 2002 guidelines, shall be applicable to all acceding LDCs, and that requests for additional transition periods will be considered taking into account individual development needs of acceding LDCs.

"We underline the need for enhanced technical assistance and capacity building to help acceding LDCs to complete their accession process, implement their commitments and to integrate them into the multilateral trading system. Appropriate tools should be developed to assess the needs and to ensure greater coordination in the delivery of technical assistance, making optimal use of all facilities, including the EIF [Enhanced Integrated Framework].

"We instruct the Sub-Committee on LDCs to complete this work and make recommendations to the General Council no later than July 2012."

According to trade officials, the Chair of the Sub-Committee, Ambassador Steffen Smidt of Denmark, invited all interested members to participate in the informal consultations that will start next week.

Bangladesh, speaking on behalf of the LDC Group, said that the decision on LDC accession was a significant result of the eighth Ministerial Conference. It urged members to adhere to the deadline of July 2012 to complete the work.

It said that the LDC Group's proposal tabled last year, which called for providing more technical assistance to acceding LDCs, should be a reference point in the consultations.

According to trade officials, the United States said that it supported a productive outcome for the acceding LDCs. It added that the WTO accession process builds trade capacity of LDCs and enhances their investment environment.

The European Union said it is the WTO's duty to provide LDCs with the necessary tools in their membership negotiations, and that there is room for improvement in the current guidelines.

According to trade officials, China, Australia, Japan, Turkey and Hong Kong-China, said they will participate constructively in the forthcoming consultations.

Yemen, an acceding LDC, said that it looked forward to improvements soon in the accession process.

The next meeting of the Sub-Committee is scheduled to take place in April. +