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Make Extortion History: The case for development-friendly WTO accession for the world's poorest countries

Make Extortion History: The case for development-friendly WTO accession for the world's poorest countries

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Published by Oxfam
Until now, the process for dealing with candidates for accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has been one of extorting the maximum number of concessions out of all applicants. As a result, some of the poorest countries in the world now have more onerous WTO obligations than the richest. The 2002 WTO Decision on the Accession of Least-Developed Countries (LDCs) was intended to improve the process for these countries, but there is, as yet, no sign that it is influencing the negotiations. Vanuatu’s application for membership, stalled at its own request since 2001 because of the harsh terms on offer, represents an opportunity for the WTO and its members to turn rhetoric into action. Now is the time for the WTO and its members to take steps to honour their commitment to help LDCs to join on terms that are appropriate to their level of development
Until now, the process for dealing with candidates for accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has been one of extorting the maximum number of concessions out of all applicants. As a result, some of the poorest countries in the world now have more onerous WTO obligations than the richest. The 2002 WTO Decision on the Accession of Least-Developed Countries (LDCs) was intended to improve the process for these countries, but there is, as yet, no sign that it is influencing the negotiations. Vanuatu’s application for membership, stalled at its own request since 2001 because of the harsh terms on offer, represents an opportunity for the WTO and its members to turn rhetoric into action. Now is the time for the WTO and its members to take steps to honour their commitment to help LDCs to join on terms that are appropriate to their level of development

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Published by: Oxfam on Apr 12, 2011
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02/08/2013

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Oxfam Briefing Paper
 
79
EMBARGOED UNTIL 12:00 HRS GMT MONDAY 24 OCTOBER 2005
Make extortionhistory
The case for development-friendly WTO accession forthe world’s poorestcountries
Until now, the process for dealing with candidates for accessionto the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has been one ofextorting the maximum number of concessions out of allapplicants. As a result, some of the poorest countries in theworld now have more onerous WTO obligations than the richest.The 2002 WTO Decision on the Accession of Least-DevelopedCountries (LDCs) was intended to improve the process for thesecountries, but there is, as yet, no sign that it is influencing thenegotiations. Vanuatu’s application for membership, stalled atits own request since 2001 because of the harsh terms on offer,represents an opportunity for the WTO and its members to turnrhetoric into action. Now is the time for the WTO and itsmembers to take steps to honour their commitment to help LDCsto join on terms that are appropriate to their level ofdevelopment.
 
 
 
Contents
Make extortion history 
, Oxfam Briefing Paper, October 2005
1
 
Summary
This paper aims to make the case for a complete overhaul of the way inwhich Least-Developed Country (LDC)
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applicants hoping for accession tothe World Trade Organisation (WTO) are treated by the WTO itself, and bythe member countries that elect to join the working party dealing with theaccession application.
 
A new approach to LDC accession
The recommendation to adopt a fresh approach starts with the need toimplement existing policy on accession. The Decision on the Accession ofLeast-Developed Countries that achieved consensus in the WTO’s GeneralAssembly on December 2002
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is clearly intended to bring about afundamental change in the process. It calls for a simplified, streamlinedprocess within which WTO members exercise restraint in their demands. Itexpressly acknowledges that LDCs are entitled to Special and DifferentialTreatment
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and that they are to be given the benefit of transitional periods.Vanuatu’s level of development resembles that of its neighbour and fellowLDC, the Solomon Islands, which acceded to the WTO
 
in 1996. If the policyembodied in the Decision on LDC Accessions is applied to Vanuatu, theresulting accession package is likely to resemble the relatively modest set ofaccession commitments undertaken by the Solomon Islands much moreclosely than the disastrous terms set out in Vanuatu’s first attempt ataccession.The fact that Vanuatu participated in the preparation of the draft workingparty report
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should not
 
prohibit a revised accession plan. Concessionsextracted from LDCs through an unfair system cannot be said to be morallybinding. Nor are they legally binding, by application of the principle that‘nothing is agreed until everything is agreed’.
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It would be contrary to theintention of the Decision on the Accession of LDCs if only those countriesfortunate enough not to have attempted accession under the current processwere allowed to accede on appropriate terms.The recommendations in this paper will not succeed unless they have thesupport of influential members of Vanuatu’s working party.
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The EuropeanUnion (EU), as Vanuatu’s largest single aid donor, and Pacific neighboursAustralia and New Zealand, should equally be motivated to help make a fairaccession process a reality. Both Australia and New Zealand, in particular,have a direct interest in fostering Vanuatu’s development, in order toenhance the stability and security of the Pacific region.
 
With a queue of LDCs still waiting to join the WTO,
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the question of whetherthe 2002 Decision will now be implemented is of interest not just to Vanuatu,but also to some of the poorest or smallest countries in the world, includingEthiopia, Laos and the Pacific Island nation of Samoa.
Make extortion history,
Oxfam Briefing Paper, October 2005
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