Kathmandu, 12 December 2017
The 11th Ministerial Conference (MC11) of World Trade Organisation (WTO), which will see the gathering of officials from 164 member countries, has convened in Buenos Aires, Argentina from 10 to 13 December 2017. A wide number of agenda that carry specific concern to the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) including agriculture domestic support, Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM), Public Stockholding (PSH), fisheries subsidies, Special and Differential Treatment (S&DT), and service domestic regulation, among many others, are on table for discussion. Besides these issues, developed countries and a number of developing countries are moving towards newer issues beyond the Doha Development Round such as e-commerce, investment facilitation and integration of micro small-sized medium enterprises (MSMEs) into global trade. The ongoing negotiation at the MC11 has drawn the attention of LDC Watch, a civil society organisation that has been advocating for fair trade terms for LDCs.
Commenting on the MC11, the Chairperson of LDC Watch Mr. Demba Moussa Dembélé said, “The specific outcomes such as the duty-free and quota-free (DFQF) market access, preferential rules of origin and the services waiver packages, secured by least developed countries (LDCs) in Bali in 2013 and Nairobi in 2015 must be reaffirmed and put into action”.
Likewise, LDC Watch Global Coordinator Mr.Gauri Pradhan said, “LDCs have been following traditional approaches to advance their development interests in WTO negotiations for years; however, their demands are not well addressed by the WTO regime in reality.” Therefore, he urged all the members of LDCs to act as a consolidated group and take a firm position to safeguard their specific interests such as an end to trade-distorting measures in agriculture, removal of unfair cotton subsidies, and Special and Differential Treatment (S&DT). He further said, ‘LDCs as a group should also defend their best interest and try to prevent any new proposals which are not in favour of their sustainable development”.
The trade-specific concerns of LDCs were also intensively deliberated in the recently held “Regional Consultation of Asian LDC Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) on the Istanbul Programme of Action and 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” held in Bangkok on 6-7 December 2017. The Declaration jointly issued by the representatives of CSOs from Asian LDCs calls for the rapid implementation of the commitments made during past Ministerial Conferences such as rectification of trade-distorting measures in agriculture; elimination of unjustified non-tariff barriers; timely implementation of DFQF market access on a lasting basis; simple, transparent and predictable preferential rules of origin; a permanent solution to Public Stockholding (PSH), implementation of S&DT provisions; operationalisation of service waiver; and increase in assistance through Aid for Trade (AfT) mechanism.