UK-funded TAF2+ Programme provides continued support on WTO negotiations News

23 May, 2024

The 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) took place from February 26 – March 2, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. WTO Ministerial Conferences bring together trade ministers from across the world to review and improve the functioning of the multilateral trading system. MC13 marked a significant step forward for developing countries, including the African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) and Least-Developed Countries (LDC) Groups. Specifically, the extension of the e-commerce moratorium, and progress around the Graduation Proposal, granting countries a three-year transition period to adjust to certain WTO rules and continue to receive training, were key achievements that illustrated how targeted support and capacity building can lead to tangible outcomes in global trade negotiations. The ACP and LDC Groups have been receiving long-term technical assistance from the UK-funded Trade and Investment Advocacy Fund (TAF2+).

ACP and LDC Groups’ participation at MC13 was preceded by significant preparatory work throughout 2023, including technical briefings, the submission of proposals on key texts, as well as active participation at negotiating fora, such as the Senior Officials Meeting in October 2023. The ACP Group has been particularly active in fisheries and e-commerce discussions, while the LDC Group made significant strides in the Graduation Proposal negotiations, which culminated in the General Council adopting Part 1 of the proposed text.

At MC13, the ACP Group joined forces with developed nations and several emerging markets to support the extension of the moratorium on e-commerce tariffs for electronic transmissions.  This represents a continuation of the current practice of avoiding customs duties (i.e. tariffs) on electronic transmissions. Initially this was met with opposition by some governments; however, following sustained negotiations, members agreed to extend the moratorium for two years or until the next Ministerial conference – whichever comes first. This significant agreement was partially facilitated by developing countries that recognized the benefits of the moratorium for their services sectors, with the ACP playing an influential role throughout.

The LDC Group was equally active at MC13, with all their proposals effectively addressed.  This marked a historical first and has meant that most outcomes incorporated LDC positions at a Ministerial Conference. Specifically, the Group presented five proposals which were subsequently reflected in the Abu Dhabi Declaration for instance related to the Aid for Trade Initiative, WTO Accession, and resilience and disaster preparedness. Additionally, the WTO adopted a decision to support the transition for LDCs graduating to developing-country status. Under this decision, members are now able to maintain access to special trade concessions provided in WTO agreements for up to three years following their graduation from the LDC category. This represents a significant win for LDCs and is the result of years of advocacy.

The events at MC13 illustrate a significant change within the WTO, whereby emerging markets and developing countries are becoming more active and influential in shaping the direction of WTO reforms. According to WTO Director General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, meaningful reform requires collaboration with these countries to ensure that proposed changes create favourable conditions for their growth and prosperity. The outcomes of MC13 demonstrate that the ACP and LDC Groups are well-equipped to engage in this effort.

Related Content

Empowering Indonesian MSMEs through Sustainability and Global Trade

Micro, Small, and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) are central to the global economy, particularly in emerging markets where they account for a substantial share of employment and economic activity. In Indonesia, […]

Protecting watersheds and combating desertification, the ESEPV-Sahel project in Burkina Faso is committed to supporting local communities

Overview Heavily dependent on rain-fed agriculture and livestock breeding for their livelihoods, people in the Sahel region of Burkina Faso are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. According […]

Addressing Climate-Induced Drought and Desertification in Ghana: A Community-Centric Approach

With global temperatures hitting record highs and rainfall patterns becoming increasingly erratic, the dire consequences of climate change, such as drought, land degradation, storms and floodings are intensifying. In countries […]

Interested in shaping the future with Cowater International?
Learn More