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Allow self assessment of developing country status, 45 nations insist

The submission to the WTO by a group of 45 nations comes amid the US working on new rules to end benefits enjoyed by developing countries at the WTO.

, ET Bureau|
Oct 16, 2019, 07.57 AM IST
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NEW DELHI: A group of 45 nations including India and China has insisted that countries must be allowed to make their own assessments regarding their developing country status. In a submission to the World Trade Organization (WTO), which is to be taken up for discussion this week at the General Council, they pushed for continuation of developing countries’ unconditional rights to special and differential treatment (S&DT) in rules and negotiations.

The submission comes amid the US working on new rules to end benefits enjoyed by developing countries at the WTO.

S&DT are special provisions for developing countries, which allow them more time to implement agreements and commitments, including measures to increase trading opportunities, safeguard their trade interests, and support to build capacity to handle disputes and implement technical standards.

The coalition, including Cuba, Oman, Bolivia and the African Group, warned that “any unilateral action depriving developing members including LDCs of treaty-embedded rights would be inconsistent with members’ obligations... cause lasting and systemic damage to the trading system”.

The paper floated by India has found support from many developing countries, said sources aware of the submission.

In July, US President Donald Trump had directed his administration to change rules in the next 90 days to prevent “self-declared developing countries from availing themselves of flexibilities” in global trade. He said nearly two-thirds of the members of the multilateral trade body have been able to avail special treatment and take on weaker commitments by designating themselves as developing countries.

The countries also cautioned that attempts to water down these principles would be a recipe for “intractable deadlock at the WTO, including in the negotiations on fisheries subsidies”.

They said that developing countries need S&D to access and benefit from international markets as they face more serious challenges compared to developed countries.

“As a result, S&D is an unconditional and treaty-embedded right that has been provided to all developing countries... The WTO allows developing countries to make their own assessment about their development status,” they said. They also reaffirmed that existing S&D provisions must be upheld and provided in current and future negotiations.
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