International trade provides a well-established pathway for least-developed countries (LDCs) to achieve sustainable economic growth and development. However, LDCs face various challenges as they strive to increase their share of global trade, including domestic capacity limitations and trade barriers in export markets.
A recent collection of essays titled "LDCs and the Multilateral Trading System — Volume 2," jointly published by the WTO and the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), delves into these challenges, proposes solutions, and highlights ways in which LDCs can effectively champion their interests.
Key recommendations from the essays include:
- Advancing Agriculture Negotiations at the WTO:
Agriculture plays a crucial role in many LDCs' economies. Still, certain trade measures hinder their full integration into global markets. The upcoming 13th Ministerial Conference of the WTO, scheduled for February 2024 in Abu Dhabi, presents an opportunity to advance agricultural talks and level the playing field for farmers in developing nations. For instance, members could consider refraining from imposing export prohibitions or restrictions on foodstuffs imported by LDCs.
2. Supporting Services Trade Development:
Services trade holds significant potential for boosting economic growth in LDCs. Despite the LDC services waiver being in effect for 12 years, LDCs' share of global services trade remains at 0.53%. To address this, there should be greater support for overcoming domestic and external obstacles hindering LDCs' participation in global trade in services. Aid for Trade support can focus on addressing supply-side constraints for LDC service providers. Additionally, technical assistance can enhance physical and digital connectivity among LDCs and regional groupings like the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
3. Active Engagement in Trade Negotiations:
While LDCs benefit from preferential treatment in trade schemes offered by developed economies, their share of global trade has not increased significantly. Trade-distorting subsidies, import restrictions, and commercial policy impediments from other economies contribute to this. LDCs should actively monitor developments in trade policies and engage in discussions about subsidies' role in global trade. Improved data is essential for identifying market threats and opportunities, making participation in initiatives like the Swiss program on Capacities for Trade Policies (C4TP) valuable.
These recommendations aim to help LDCs expand their participation in global trade and overcome obstacles hindering their economic growth. The essays are part of the joint effort between the EIF and WTO Secretariat to support the implementation of the Doha Programme of Action for LDCs for the decade 2022-2031. It's important to note that the views expressed in these essays do not necessarily reflect the positions or opinions of WTO members but are intended to enrich discussions on LDCs' trade expansion efforts.