Least developed countries explore how to increase services trade by tapping WTO waiver

10 June 2015
ITC News

Geneva-based officials from least developed countries (LDCs) are better equipped to understand how their countries can take advantage of preferential market access to bolster their participation in global services trade following a seminar organized by the International Trade Centre (ITC).

The so-called ‘waiver’, which effectively permits World Trade Organization (WTO) members to discriminate in favour of LDC services and services suppliers, offers LDCs potential to play a greater role in global trade in services.

The 8 June seminar, held at WTO headquarters in Geneva, was the sixth in a series sponsored by the Australian Mission to the WTO on issues facing LDCs in services trade.

At a high-level meeting in February 2015, more than 20 WTO members signaled that they would provide preferential treatment for LDCs in a range of services. Members are due to formally notify the specifics of such preferential treatment to the WTO by the end of July.

Focusing on capacity building

The delegates joined experts from the WTO, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) and ITC in discussing the technical assistance and capacity-building measures needed to promote LDC services exports.

Participants noted that capacity building is needed in areas such as the collection, analysis and use of trade in services statistics to ensure an evidence- and measurement-based approach to Aid for Trade for services, strengthened advocacy efforts for small and medium-sized enterprises in trade in services, and support for ongoing services trade and investment negotiations at the bilateral, regional and multilateral levels.

Ambassador Darlington Mwape, former Zambian envoy to the WTO and Senior Fellow at the ICTSD, said that Aid for Trade in services should be seen as an investment in the future aimed at fostering greater services competitiveness and at enabling emerging markets to produce goods and services for the global market.

Looking ahead

The University of Adelaide, with support from the Government of Australia, will lead a new series of seminars for LDC delegates on services trade. The sessions are taking place in Geneva (22-25 June) and elsewhere, including Cambodia (9-12 June), Ethiopia, Nepal and Vanuatu.