Boosting Trade Opportunities for Least-Developed Countries



World Trade Organization

Major advances have been made in enhancing trade opportunities for LDCs, as well as in providing continued flexibilities to implement WTO rules and disciplines. A set of concrete decisions aimed at improving market access for LDC products, such as duty-free and quota-free (DFQF) market access, preferential rules of origin and the LDC services waiver, indicate members’ commitment to LDCs’ development, while WTO members’ generous extension until 1 July 2034 of the transition period for LDCs under the WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) attests to members’ willingness to allow LDCs sufficient time to integrate WTO rules. LDCs have also received special treatment in the implementation of multilateral agreements like the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), which has the potential to reduce trade costs in LDCs.

LDCs thus continue to remain at the heart of the development dimension of the multilateral trading system. At the same time, LDCs have not been able to take full advantage of the opportunities provided under the multilateral trading system, and their participation in global trade has not reached the desired level. The IPoA goal of doubling the share of LDCs in global exports by 2020 was not met. LDCs’ trade performance is conditioned by their weak productive and institutional capacity, narrow export base and limited market destinations, continued and widening trade deficit, susceptibility to high price volatility for primary commodities, and, most recently, by the declining demand and global economic contractions resulting from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. LDCs are facing challenges similar to those they were already confronting a decade ago, and these are severely impacting their ability to recover from the ongoing pandemic.

It is in these challenging circumstances that the Fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC5) will be held. LDC5 should aim to forge a renewed partnership between LDCs and their trading and development partners over the next decade, in order to build a strong foundation of enhanced economic growth and resilience in LDCs that will overlap with the remaining years of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.


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