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A number of elements of the package of agreed multilateral outcomes from the 9th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization align with the United States’ goals to alleviate poverty and improve economic opportunities through trade policy and development assistance. The development outcomes of the Bali package will further facilitate the integration of developing countries – and especially least developed countries (LDCs) – into the multilateral trading system.
At the conference in Bali, Indonesia, Members established a new forum for reviewing the implementation of special and differential treatment (S&D) provisions – the provisions that allow developing countries different timetables or other flexibilities to meet their WTO commitments. The Monitoring Mechanism will provide a regular opportunity for Members to engage in practical, evidence-based discussions that will highlight challenges and promote sharing of best practices with regard to S&D provisions, to make sure they are properly encouraging trade and economic growth for developing country partners.
Recognizing that least-developed countries need special treatment and assistance to achieve their development objectives, Members agreed on four LDC-specific elements.
- Duty-free and quota-free (DFQF) market access: The decision includes a political commitment whereby developed country Members pledge to seek to improve DFQF market access for LDCs by the next WTO Ministerial Conference. In doing so, the United States will carefully consider the impact on LDCs that benefit under existing U.S. preference programs. The decision also encourages more advanced developing-country Members who are in a position to do so to provide DFQF market access or to improve their existing DFQF coverage.
- Preferential rules of origin: The decision provides guidelines that Members may draw upon when developing or modifying their rules of origin for non-reciprocal preference programs for LDCs – like the United States’ Generalized System of Preferences or the African Growth and Opportunity Act, both of which allow developing countries including LDCs to export many goods to the U.S. market duty-free. The guidelines recommend that preferential rules of origin and the related documentary requirements be as transparent, simple, and objective as possible, with the aim of making it easier for LDC exporters to benefit from the preferential market access available to them.
- Operationalization of the LDC services waiver: The decision on the LDC services waiver – which requires WTO Members to give preferential treatment to LDC services and services suppliers – will help to better integrate LDCs into the world services economy. The decision also underlines the importance of enhanced technical assistance and capacity building to help LDCs benefit from the operationalization of the waiver. For any country, a more vibrant services economy can result in greater economic growth and opportunities, and it can help attract investment to all sectors of an LDC economy.
- Cotton: Members agreed to enhance transparency and monitoring in relation to trade-related aspects of cotton in the WTO. Members will meet twice each year to study the latest information and to discuss the latest developments on market access, domestic support and export subsidies for cotton, particularly from LDCs. Members also committed to continued engagement in the Director-General’s Consultative Framework Mechanism on Cotton, which aims to strengthen the LDC cotton sector.
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