Analytical Note, January 2013

Operationalising the 2002 LDC Accession Guidelines: An Analysis.

Benchmarks to ‘further strengthen, streamline and operationalize’ the 2002 LDC Accession Guidelines have been developed. The following conclusions can be made regarding these benchmarks:

  • With these benchmarks, acceding LDCs are asked to take on liberalisation commitments that are far steeper than the flexibilities many existing WTO members enjoy, including some developed countries.
  • The numbers put at risk the ability of acceding LDCs to build their production capacities in agriculture and industry.
  • The benchmarks seem to have omitted the explicit provision of transition periods in agriculture, and in industrial tariffs (except for a few tariffs and only if the countries do not take advantage of having 5% of unbound tariffs).
  • There is the possibility that these benchmarks will impact on other countries. i) Non-LDC acceding countries could be asked to do more than these benchmarks. ii) Once a multilaterally recognised baseline has been developed (by way of these benchmarks), existing WTO Members open themselves to the possibility of being asked to take commitments up to the level of these benchmarks or beyond in current or future WTO negotiating Rounds, even if this had not been the intention of the present negotiators.
  • The 2002 Accession Guidelines says that when WTO Members seek concessions and commitments, they must take ‘into account the levels of concessions and commitments undertaken by existing WTO LDCs’ Members’. If this is taken to mean the average tariff levels of existing WTO LDC Members, then the average bound agricultural tariff would be 76.1%; binding coverage for NAMA 51.6% and the bound NAMA tariff would be 42.9%. Compared to these, the new benchmarks – the average bound agricultural tariff of 50%; binding coverage for NAMA of 95%, and the average bound tariff for NAMA of 35% – are much more onerous for acceding LDCs.

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