Development Committee welcomes MC12 decision on e-commerce work programme

WTO members welcomed at a meeting of the Committee on Trade and Development on 20 June the decision taken by the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) to reinvigorate activities under the Work Programme on E-Commerce, with the aim of increasing the participation of developing countries and least-developed countries (LDCs) in digital trade. The Committee also received updates on initiatives to increase capacity-building training activities in these countries and on the preferential treatment extended to LDC exports.

Participation of developing countries in e-commerce

WTO members expressed their readiness to reinvigorate the development aspect of the Work Programme on Electronic Commerce, as instructed in the decision that ministers adopted at MC12 on 17 June. The decision also extends the current practice of not imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions until the 13th Ministerial Conference.(1)

WTO members continued discussing a paper entitled “Global Electronic Commerce for Inclusive Development” tabled by India and South Africa in November 2021. The need to intensify discussions on ways of boosting the participation of developing countries in digital trade was emphasized by many members. India shared its experiences in creating a public digital infrastructure and invited other members to follow suit.More information on the paper can be found here.

Capacity-building activities for developing countries

The WTO’s Institute for Training and Technical Cooperation (ITTC) presented its 2022 WTO Technical Assistance Annual Report, outlining how the WTO Secretariat delivered training activities to developing countries, LDCs and observer governments in 2021 despite the constraints posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Beneficiaries were able to improve their understanding of WTO activities, the report notes, and to play a more active role in the multilateral trading system. The number of women and government officials from LDCs taking part in training activities bounced back after a decline caused by the pandemic. The report can be downloaded here.

In addition, after a year with almost no face-to-face activities, ITTC said it was able to hold in early June the first in-person training course for government officials from developing countries and LDCs since the onset of the pandemic in 2020.

Preferential treatment for LDC exports

India said that it is providing duty-free access to LDC exports for 94.2 per cent of its tariff lines. India is the fourth most important destination for LDC exports, it added.

China noted that it would continue to work for the early entry into force of its improved duty-free treatment for 98 per cent of its tariff lines for LDC products, as announced in December 2021.

Regional trade agreements

WTO members took note of the notification by Seychelles of its accession to the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) at the Committee’s dedicated session on regional trade agreements, which was also held on 20 June.

Future work

The Development Committee chair, Ambassador Usha Chandnee Dwarka-Canabady of Mauritius, informed members of her intention to consult with them on how to make progress on the work of the Committee. This includes fully implementing the Committee’s mandate to act as the focal point for the WTO’s development work. It also includes implementing a “Monitoring Mechanism” to centralize, within  the WTO, the analysis and review of the use of special and differential provisions for  developing countries. Detailed information on the work of the Committee is available here.

Date of the next meeting

The next meeting of the Committee is scheduled for mid-November.

  1. WTO members will hold consultations in the WTO’s General Council to decide on the date and venue of the 13th Ministerial Conference. back to text
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