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World Bank Group and WTO team up to enable Trade Facilitation

The World Bank Group and the WTO have decided to increase their collaboration in the context of the Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility. The establishment of the Facility is an initiative from the WTO to help developing countries with the implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement. This agreement was concluded in December last year, during the WTO Ministerial Conference in Bali. The Facility aims to provide a safety net for those countries that cannot find the necessary support in the donor community to implement the Trade Facilitation Agreement. The World Bank and the WTO will work together to identify sources of funding and support. The World Bank Group is the largest...

Lesotho and Rwanda among the ten most competitive economies in Sub-Saharan Africa

Two LDCs feature in the top ten list of most competitive Sub Saharan economies: Rwanda and Lesotho. This list is published in the Global Competitiveness Report of the World Economic Forum. The study takes into account twelve measures that influence competitiveness: institutions, infrastructure, macroeconomic environment, higher education and training, goods market efficiency, labour market efficiency, financial market development, technological readiness, market size, business sophistication and innovation. Rwanda occupies the third place. Key factors there are their relatively strong institutions and an efficient goods market and labour market. Lesotho just makes it into the top...

Nepal determined to leave the LDC group in 2022

The Minister of Finance, Mr. Ram Sharan Mahat, announced that strategies to facilitate the migration from the LDC group will be part of the next periodical plan, a three-year strategic roadmap that guides Nepalese policies. The strategies will focus on infrastructure projects dealing with transport connectivity and power. These two elements are the main challenges that Nepal has to address, if the country wishes to meet the criteria to leave the LDC group. Besides infrastructure works, capital expenditure should be accelerated in order to attain a sufficient level in economic growth. Last year, 3.3 % of GDP was spent on capital investment, while it needs to be 8 to 12 % for the...

Yemen becomes 160th member of WTO

On June 26 2014, Yemen joined the WTO, after 13 years of negotiating. The country applied for membership in April 2000. The accession was approved by the trade ministers of the member states during the Bali conference in December. With this decision, 97.1 % of the global economy is covered by the WTO’s rules. Yemen is the sixth LDC to join the multilateral trade organization since the WTO was established in 1995. It was preceded by Cambodia (2004), Nepal (2004), Samoa (2012), Vanuatu (2012) and Lao People's Democratic Republic (2013). To become a member, Yemen had to get its legislation in line with the WTO rules on items such as rules of origin, preshipment inspection,...

Pakistan set to offer SAARC LDCs duty free market access

Pakistan is committed to grant LDCs that are member of the SAARC duty-free market access for almost all products. Pakistan uses a sensitive list to exclude products from reductions in duties for its fellow SAARC members. This list will be reviewed for the LDCs, keeping only a few sensitive products on the list to protect the local industry. Pakistan has already reduced the list for all SAARC countries, removing 233 items. The LDCs (and graduated LDCs) that might benefit from this improved market access are Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Afghanistan. Source: Dawn

Bangladesh and Turkey about to start trade negotiations to establish FTA

Later this month, a delegation from Bangladesh will travel to Ankara to initiate trade negotiations with Turkey. The objective of these trade talks is to conclude a Free Trade Agreement, addressing the drop in export of Bangladesh’s apparel to Turkey. Higher import duties, imposed by Turkey in 2012, have led to a significant decrease in export from Bangladesh. The countries already agreed to establish an FTA in the spring of 2012, when the levies were about to be implemented. Before these new levies were put into place, LDCs received a duty free market access for apparel, in line with Turkey’s DFQF scheme. In the fiscal year 2013-2014, Bangladesh exported about 856 million USD worth...

LDCs act upon Bali agreement and submit a request on the services waiver

LDCs have submitted a collective request for preferential market access for their services and service-suppliers. This relates to the 2011 Hong Kong declaration, allowing WTO members to deviate from the Most-Favored Nation principle in order to grant LDCs a more advantageous market access in services. At the Bali conference last December, it was decided to breathe life into this until then unheeded services waiver. The Bali agreement stipulates that once the request for a special and different treatment in services has been made, the Council for Trade in Services has six months to set up a high-level meeting. During that meeting, an answer will be formulated; WTO members will...

UNDESA discusses LDC graduation in the margins of the LDC conference in Benin

On 28-31 July 2014, the ministerial meeting on new partnerships for productive capacity building in the Least Developed Countries takes place. On the website of the UN High representative for LDCs, LLDC and SIDS you can find detailed information about the conference and the conference agenda. One of the side events organized during this conference is a UNDESA discussion session, where the likelihood of 24 LDCs graduating from the category by 2020 will be debated. This was one of the objectives of the IPoA.  Mr. Hiroshi Kawamura (CDP Secretariat, UN/DESA) will give a presentation and Mr. Alassane Drabo (FERDI) is discussant. More information: UNOHRLLS , UNDESA event

WTO and other international organizations promise assistance to LDCs for the implementation of the trade facilitation agreement

The WTO, ITC, OECD, UNCTAD, UNECE, World Bank and WCO have declared that they will give LDCs  Trade facilitation-related technical assistance and capacity building support. The trade Facilitation Agreement Facility, as the WTO initiative is called, will aid in the implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) that was concluded during the Bali Ministerial Conference in December. The agreement links the implementation of its provisions to the capacity of the signatory parties, and includes a commitment to assist countries that need assistance for the implementation. Once the protocol to insert the TFA into the existing regulatory framework is adopted, the Facility will...

LDC imports push Italian rice out of the market

Rice imports from LDCs into the EU are taking over Italy’s share in the market, says the Italy Farmers Union. Rice from countries such as Cambodia and Myanmar have become more competitive than Italian rice through the Everything But Arms regime. While Italian rice is sold at ±646 euros a ton, Cambodia sells its rice for ±438 euros a ton. The EBA regime provides a DFQF market access to all imports from LDCs (except for arms-related goods), including rice since the expiry of the transition period in 2009. The farmers Union has sent a report to the EU addressing this issue, and want the EU to reestablish duties on rice imports from LDCs or adopt a safeguard clause. They claim that the...

Lessons from previously acceded countries in becoming a WTO member

Analysing previous accessions to the WTO, Derk Bienen provides lessons for LDCs when applying for membership to the WTO. First he discusses the duration of the process, concluding that WTO accession does not happen overnight. The process takes, on average, 13.4 years for LDCs and actual negotiating time is 10.0 years. Key negotiation issues, market access and rules and disciplines are also examined. Procedural challenges are listed, together with possible responses to mitigate some of these challenges and existing facilitation measures to support LDCs in overcoming these challenges. In a second part, the terms of accessions are examined; focussing on commitments in trade in goods, trade...

Analyzing the Bali package from an LDC perspective

In an article assessing the meaning of the Bali-package, Christophe Bellmann analyzes the agreement from an LDC perspective. Contrary to what the name suggests, not the LDC-package but the trade facilitation agreement is probably the most important part for LDCs. Especially intra-regional trade might increase significantly due to simplified customs procedures. The implementation of the trade facilitation agreement will not be a walk in the park, but build-in flexibilities and technical assistance can help in overcoming the most difficult stumbling blocks. However, whether the agreement will entail real benefits depends on the political will of member states to fully implement the...

Upcoming Ministerial Conference on Productive Capacities in LDCs

  O n 28-31 July 2014, a Ministerial Conference on New Partnerships for the Development of Productive Capacities in LDCs takes place in Cotonou, Benin. The meeting will make policy recommendations on leveraging development partnerships , including through enhancing contribution of ODA, South-South cooperation, remittance earnings, FDI and other traditional forms of external finance. These recommendations are also expected to feed into the discussions on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the post-2015 development agenda. More info: http://unohrlls.org/ministerial-conference-2014-benin/

Nepal on the road to LDC graduation

N epal might lose its LDC status by 2022. This is in accordance with the Istanbul Program of Action (IPoA). The IPoA was developed during the fourth LDC conference in Istanbul in 2011, and includes the objective to reduce the group of LDCs by half by the end of the decade. A Nepalese newspaper assesses the pros and cons that come with losing the LDC status. On the one hand, Nepal might experience a drop in received ODA and it might lose some of the trade preferences it enjoys today. The benefits mentioned, on the other hand, are national pride and the shift away from aid dependency. The author concludes that the benefits outweigh the costs, a vision that is shared by the Nepalese...

Bali trade facilitation agreement addresses SPS barriers

Last December, during the 9 th ministerial WTO conference in Bali, an agreement was reached, referred to as the Bali package. The most significant part of this package deals with trade facilitation. Member states decided to simplify the movement of goods across borders, promote cooperation in the WTO on customs matters and help development countries implement the agreement. The importance of trade facilitation should not be underestimated; according to the OECD, the trade facilitation agreement can increase global GDP by one trillion USD. Trade costs for LICs are estimated to drop by 14.5%, for lower MICs by 15.5%. These numbers can to a certain extend be explained by the removal...

Development aid at highest level ever in 2013

Official development aid has increased in 2013 by 6.1 %, reaching its highest level ever; a positive turn after two years of decreasing aid volumes. This could however not reverse the trend of a falling share of aid going to the less developed Sub-Saharan African countries. ODA for the LDCs has risen substantially in 2013, but these numbers are influenced by an exceptional debt relief for Myanmar. The numbers for Sub-Saharan Africa, where most LDCs are located, are not promising. In 2013, bilateral aid decreased by 4 %. The DAC survey suggests that this trend will continue in the coming years. DAC members will focus their efforts on middle income countries, while LDCs and LICs will...

TÜBITAK Graduate Scholarship Programme for LDCs is accepting applications

Applications are invited for TÜBITAK graduate scholarship available for the citizens of least developed countries. The scholarship covers fields of Natural Sciences, Engineering and Technological Sciences, Medical Sciences, Agricultural Sciences, Social Sciences and Humanities. Applicants must be 30 years old or younger for the MSc/MA programs and 35 years old or younger for the PhD programs on the first day of the application period. Applicants who are currently enrolled in a PhD program in Turkey are also eligible to apply on the condition that they have not yet completed their six semester in the program. Maximum duration for the scholarship is 2 years for the Masters and 4 years for...

Launch of Angola's LDC Graduation book

A digital book on the process of graduation of Angola from the list of LDCs was released in Geneva, Switzerland. Co-authors, Adelino Muxito and Gilberto António, present a study of the impact of the removal of the special measures associated with the LDC status. They reach the conclusion that in the short term, graduation might not have an impact on Angolan exports, taking into account that in various markets, crude oil (which is the bulk of the Angolan exports) has zero or low customs tariffs under the general MFN regime. However, the authors argue that in the medium and long term, the graduation will eventually have an impact on the national policy of diversification of exports, due to...

Cambodia to certify origin of rice exported to the EU under EBA

Amidst increasing concerns by the European Union about the origin of rice exported by Cambodia, the country will set up an oversight infrastructure to improve the accountability of its exporters. Cambodian rice has preferential access to the EU market under the EBA initiative. Depending on the type of rice exported, MFN tariff lines are on average 7.7 per cent (ad valorem), while certain rice varieties incur specific duties ranging from €65 to €211 per ton, according to the WTO tariff on line database. It is argued that Cambodian rice exports would not be competitive if EBA treatment is lost. Currently, Cambodian rice is quoted between $365 to 450 per ton, with the fragrant varieties...

EIF: Enhancing LDCs' self-reliance

In an interview to Afrique en Ligne EIF's Executive Secretary, Mr. Ratnakar Adhikari, highlights the EIF's contribution to reducing LDCs' dependence on foreign aid, diversifying  countries' export base and promoting South-South cooperation through the exchange of experiences. Details of this informative interview can be found here .