WTO ministers adopt waiver to permit preferential treatment of LDC service suppliers

Geneva, 17 December 2011

Trade ministers at the 8th WTO Ministerial Conference today, 17 December 2011, in 

Geneva, adopted a waiver to enable developing and developed-country Members to provide preferential treatment to services and service suppliers of least-developed country (LDC) Members. Of the 153 WTO Members, 31 are LDCs who stand to benefit from preferential treatment designed to promote their trade in those sectors and modes of supply that are of particular interest to them.

Article XIX:3 of the WTO’s General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) requires the establishment of modalities for the special treatment for LDCs in the negotiations on trade in services. These modalities were established in September 2003 (TN/S/13). Annex C of the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration of December 2005 (WT/MIN(05)/DEC) also provided guidance in this regard and called upon Members to establish appropriate mechanisms to give effect to the modalities.

This waiver, which will last for 15 years from the date of adoption, releases developing and developed-country Members from their legal obligation to provide non-discriminatory treatment to all trading partners (GATS Article II: Most-Favoured-Nation Treatment), so as to give them legal cover when they give preferential treatment to LDCs.

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