south asia watch on trade, economics and environment

Programme

Advancing LDCs’ Interests in the WTO

Strengthening Participation, Securing Priorities

Background

The role of trade as a key driver of development of economies of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) has gained increasing recognition. LDCs have been opening up their economies, through domestic reforms and also as part of regional and multilateral commitments. This is manifested in their current high degree of openness, with exports and imports at present being equivalent to more than 50 percent of combined GDP of the LDCs.

However, LDCs remain marginalised players in the global trading scenario; their combined share still hover around 1 percent of global trade. LDCs, which account for about 12 percent of the global population, contribute only two percent of the global GDP and receive less than 3 percent of the global FDI. It is to be noted that, the number of LDCs currently stands at 48; to compare, when this substrata among developing countries was first identified in 1971, the number was only 25.

In this backdrop, graduation of LDCs through strengthened participation in the process of globalisation has assumed critical importance in the current development discourse. Since multilateral trading system plays a critically important role in defining whether LDCs are able to take advantage of trade and make it work for their development, advancing their interests has assumed critical importance under the prevailing global trading scenario. There is, thus, a strong case to identify appropriate modalities to secure LDCs interests in the World Trade Organization (WTO) which is a key player driving in the multilateral trading system.

Objectives

This project seeks to undertake a range of activities towards strengthened participation of the LDCs in the WTO by addressing their felt-demands by pursuing a multi-pronged implementation strategy in view of the proposed project. It is hoped that the envisaged activities under this submission will contribute towards identifying modalities and implementing activities to attain the objective of strengthened global integration of Bangladesh, Nepal and other LDCs.

The project will focus on issues of concern and interests to Bangladesh and Nepal but those are, to a large extent, typical of all the LDCs. Bangladesh is one of the leading LDCs whilst Nepal is a relatively recently acceded LDC member of the WTO. Both these countries play an important role in the WTO on behalf of the group of 34 LDCs members. Thus, although the proposal focuses on Bangladesh and Nepal, the outputs will be of relevance to all the LDCs, from the perspectives of negotiations in the WTO and assessment of impact of important global developments on trade-related interests of the LDCs.

The overarching objective of the proposed programme is to enhance the prospects of economic and social development of LDCs through their strengthened participation in the multilateral trading system.

The Sub-objectives are:
(i) produce evidence-based policy recommendations in trade-related areas, (ii) stimulate knowledge-sharing in trade related issues, (iii) capacity building of relevant actors and (iv) effective outreach and policy-influencing activities to promote and secure trade-related interests of LDCs

This project is being implemented jointly by the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), Bangladesh and South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE), Nepal with support from Opportunity Fund of Think Tank Initiative (TTI-OF).

Below are the activities performed in Nepal under the project.


Research

SAWTEE has undertaken the following studies under the project:

  1. WTO LDCs waiver: Opportunities for Nepal in select sectors
  2. E-Commerce in WTO: Agenda for Nepal

Advocacy

SAWTEE has carried out the following activities to help advance the interest of Nepal in particular and LDCs in general :

  • Participation in the Eleventh WTO Ministerial Conference (MC11) and backstopping Nepalese delegation to MC11
  • Organization of a programme ‘Services Waiver: Maximising Benefits for the LDCs’ in the sideline of MC11
  • Presentation on 11th WTO Ministerial Conference: Issues and Possible Positions for Nepal’ in a programme organized by the then Ministry of Commerce of Government of Nepal
  • SAWTEE has been a part of High Level Committee on E-Commerce formed by the Ministry of Commerce and project staff regularly participated in the meetings. SAWTEE was a member of the committee to identify the plan of action that would guide the domestic preparedness and readiness of Nepal on e-commerce.

Capacity building

SAWTEE carried out workshops and seminars to build the capacity of stakeholders, including government officials, regulators and private sector. In addition, project staff took part in various capacity building programmes as below:


  • A workshop was organized on WTO services waiver.
  • A workshop meeting on the issues of promoting electronic commerce was organized at the Ministry of Commerce
  • A national seminar was organized on ‘E-Commerce in WTO: Agenda for Nepal’
  • Mr. Asish Subedi participated in various meetings and dialogues organized in the sideline of the Eleventh WTO Ministerial Conference, Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • Mr. Asish Subedi also participated in various workshops in Nepal on the issues of multilateral trade and services trade, including one in Bangkok organized by the Royal Thai Government in collaboration with United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP)
  • Ms. Pragati Koirala and Mr. Shaleen Khanal of the research team participated in the meetings on issues of E-Commerce and trade in services organized by the Governments High Level Committee on E-commerce.

Outreach and dissemination

Blogs and articles


  1. Investment friendly regime
  2. LDC Services Waiver (Page #36)
  3. E-commerce, developing countries and WTO (Page #36)
  4. The future is here
  5. E-commerce in Nepal: Exploring the Potentials
  6. An Introduction to Services and its Role in the Economy