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  November 9th, 2015 | Written by

LDCs Welcome Progress on Preferential Treatment for Services

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  • WTO members are committed to advance services supplied by least-developed countries.
  • The LDC Services Waiver allows WTO members to deviate the General Agreement on Trade in Services.
  • LDC proposal would extend services waiver to 15 years from the date of submission of each notification.

Least-developed countries (LDCs) welcomed what they said were real efforts by members of the World Trade Organization to provide LDC service suppliers with improved access to their markets.

Speaking on behalf of the group at a meeting of the WTO’s Services Council, Shameem Ahsan, Bangladesh’s ambassador to the WTO, said the group applauded the efforts so far to make the LDC Services Waiver decision a reality.

There is now “ample evidence on the table” to show WTO members are committed to advance services supplied by LDCs, he said.  But he cautioned that more needs to be done.

The LDC Services Waiver, adopted at the WTO Eighth Ministerial Conference in 2011, allows non-LDC members to grant preferences to provide all LDCs greater access to their markets. For the first time, this decision allows WTO members to deviate from their Most-Favored Nation obligation under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).

Initial progress on implementation was slow, prompting WTO members to decide at the Ninth Ministerial Conference in 2013 to take further steps.

The first preferences notification, from Canada, was received last March. Seventeen WTO members have now submitted notifications of preferential treatment to LDC services and service suppliers: Canada; Australia; Norway; Korea; China; Hong Kong, China; Chinese Taipei; Singapore; New Zealand; Switzerland; Japan; Mexico; Turkey; the United States; India; Chile; and Iceland. Similar notifications from Brazil, South Africa, and the European Union are expected soon.

The LDC Group also outlined a proposal on the services waiver at the WTO’s upcoming Tenth Ministerial Conference in Nairobi, Kenya in December. The proposal would extend the waiver period to 15 years from the date of submission of each notification, rather than the current 15-year lifespan from the date of its adoption in December 2011.