Abu Dhabi, July 30, 2019
The United States submitted a communication to the World Trade Organization (WTO) under document WT/GC/W/757 “An undifferentiated WTO: self-declared development status risks institutional irrelevance.” This paper says countries at the WTO should not be allowed to self-declare themselves as “developing countries.” US also notes that developed countries have been severely disadvantaged in the WTO system due to Special and Differential Treatment (S&D) flexibilities that all developing countries enjoy.
Under the existing WTO conventions, S&D gives developing countries unilateral flexibility in implementing obligations and enjoins developed countries to treat them favorably. S&Ds are categorized into four:
- Longer time periods for implementation of agreements and commitments
- Measures to increase trading opportunities for developing countries
- Provisions requiring all WTO members to safeguard the trade interests of developing countries
- Support to help developing countries build the capacity to carry out WTO work, handle disputes and implement technical standards.
According to the US proposal, the WTO’s inability to clearly distinguish developing and non-developing countries among member states causes negotiations to fail. The continued lack of institutional work also puts the WTO on a difficult position before negotiating in disciplines to meet the challenges of today or tomorrow.
The US presented the criteria designed to identify developing countries eligible for S&D rather than the countries making the self-delegation themselves. As per the proposal, the UAE is outside the list of countries eligible for S&D.
The Ministry of Economy reiterated that any proposal submitted by any member state should be approved by all WTO members first as required by the set rules. The UAE, assured the Ministry, will cooperate with the organization’s decision and will support any approach agreed on by the developing countries. The Ministry maintained that this latest development, if approved, shall not affect the UAE’s current obligations and interests in the WTO due to the following reasons:
- The UAE has been timely completing its trade obligations since 1996, in view of the fact that it believes in the trade liberalization principle. On the other hand, the WTO early accession has helped disallow high ceilings that are difficult to apply and implement.
- The UAE is a pivotal trade hub in the region and the world. Therefore, the country does not need the flexibility given to developing countries in relation to increasing trade opportunities. The Arab state has long positioned itself on the global trade map thanks to its free trade policy.
- The country has vibrant trade activities in the region with many international businesses showing great interest in the UAE because of its advanced infrastructure and given the fact that it serves as gateway to other markets in the Middle East and Africa. Therefore, on taking into account the commercial interests of developing countries, the UAE will not be significantly affected by virtue of its status as the region’s vital trade center.
- The country can benefit from technical support programs across all fields through self-financing. Providing technical support to WTO members is important but funding these programs will not pose any problem to the state.