#WTO 13th Ministerial Conference

Nepal reiterates its call for continuation of int'l support measures as it prepares for LDC graduation in 2026

Published On: February 28, 2024 01:12 PM NPT By: Kosh Raj Koirala  | @KoshRKoirala

ABU DHABI (United Arab Emirates), Feb 28: Nepal has reiterated its call for the continuation of all international support measures for a specified period even after the country's graduation from a Least Developed Country (LDC) to a developing country.

Addressing a sideline event at the 13th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization(WTO) in Abu Dhabi, Minister for Industry, Commerce and Supplies Ramesh Rijal said that Nepal re-emphasizes the need for the continuation of all international support measures, particularly - Duty-Free Quota-Free Market Access, Special and Differential Treatments, preferential rules of origin, service waiver, Aid for Trade and Technical Assistance and Capacity Building supports and other important flexibilities in the implementation of multilateral trade agreements and commitments after graduation for a specified period of time. 

Nepal has announced its plan to graduate from the LDC group to a developing country in November, 2026 amid concerns of losing various preferential treatments it receives as an LDC in international trade. In October, 2023, the WTO General Council reached an important deal to support LDCs on the path to graduation from the LDC status, adopting a decision on the extension of support measures for graduating countries. The decision was taken by the senior officials gathered at the WTO on 23 and 24 October for a meeting aimed at making preparations for the 13th WTO Ministerial Conference. 

Minister Rijal said that Nepal welcomes the decision taken by the WTO General Council and urges all members to support the LDC graduation related proposal submitted by the LDC Group to facilitate the smooth and sustainable graduation. " .....challenges that the graduated country might face should be facilitated through a creative resolution over the proposal submitted by the LDC Group," he said.

Although there has been an agreement to support LDCs for a certain period of time even after their graduation, there has not been consensus on the number of years the developed countries are ready to offer such support measures. The developed countries have agreed to offer such support for three years beyond graduation, although the LDCs on the path to graduation have been pressing for additional years for their smooth transition. 

While graduation from the LDC status represents an important milestone in their development, LDCs have underscored the challenges they face trying to integrate into the global economy while international support measures are being phased out. Over the past three years, the WTO's LDC group has been pursuing a smooth transition mechanism in the WTO to extend LDC-specific preferences and provisions in WTO agreements after graduation. Discussions are ongoing in the WTO Sub-Committee on LDCs on other elements of the LDCs' requests relating to special and differential treatment, according to WTO officials.

There are currently 46 LDCs, of which 16 are in different stages of the graduation process. Of these, 10 are WTO members (Angola, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Djibouti, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Nepal, Senegal, Solomon Islands and Zambia) and four are negotiating their terms of entry into the WTO (Bhutan, Comoros, Sao Tomé and Principe, and Timor-Leste). The other two LDCs on the graduation path are Kiribati and Tuvalu. 

Addressing the function, Minister Rijal also raised the issue of the multilateral trading system being undermined lately by growing protectionism and unilateral trade measures of the trade partners. While calling for collective commitment to the multilateral trading system, he maintained that the system has been further weakened by ineffective implementation of WTO decisions including the Doha Development Agenda. 

Minister Rijal highlighted the need to ensure meaningful participation of the LDCs and LLDCs by providing appropriate policy space to address the contemporary trade-related challenges faced by its members through the multilateral trading system. "At this moment, ensuring food security, agricultural reform, development aspects of the e-commerce, enabling environment for MSMEs and WTO reform, particularly dispute settlement, should be our primary concerns," he said. 

Rijal also mentioned that the delay in the nomination of Appellate Body members has undermined the effective functioning of the WTO. "The multilateral trading system's commitment to the rule of law depends on the establishment of a dispute settlement institution. Therefore, we call for the fully functioning of the two-tier dispute settlement mechanism as soon as possible," he added.


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