Special treatment and flexibilities under WTO rules

LDCs that are members of the WTO benefit from special considerations in their implementation of WTO agreements. Special and differential treatment (S&D) provisions for LDCs aim principally to facilitate compliance with WTO rules in view of the limited capacities of LDCs; to protect their policy space; and to support them in increasing their participation in international trade by addressing supply-side constraints and supporting trade-related elements of development strategies.   The Sub-Committee on LDCs at the WTO follows the work programme for the LDCs, which covers systemic issues of interest to LDCs in the multilateral trading system.

LDCs that are not members of the WTO benefit from support for the accession process.

The links below provide an overview of the main provisions, in addition to preferential market access for goods and services. Some of these provisions are applicable only to those LDCs who were founding members of the WTO, and some applied only for certain time periods after the entry into force of the various WTO agreements. LDCs that are newly acceded WTO members have in some cases waived their access to LDC-specific support measures in the negotiations with other WTO members on their accession packages. In addition to the provisions listed here, there are also a number of references within agreements and decisions whereby WTO members generally commit to taking the needs of LDCs into account, to ensuring capacity-building for LofDCs in the fulfilment of their commitments under the WTO, and to furthering their participation in world trade. LDCs have also enjoyed flexibilities and special treatment in trade negotiations.

The content below is intended to provide a simplified summary to the main special and differential treatment provisions under the WTO agreements. For legal texts and the most up-to-date information, please refer to www.wto.org. See also WTO/EIF (2020), Trade impacts of LDC graduation, referred to extensively in the links below.

Technical assistance provisions for LDCs under WTO agreements and technical assistance activities delivered by the WTO Secretariat are reported here.

Special and differential treatment to LDCs under WTO agreements and related decisions