Workshop on enhancing the development potential of trade in services for the least developed countries through preferential treatment

26 mars 2018
10:00-13:00 hrs., Room XXVI, Palais des Nations
, Switzerland

The session will provide an opportunity for a discussion on improving access to services export markets and domestic supply capacity for LDCs in the context of the waiver concerning preferential treatment to services and service suppliers of LDCs, under the World Trade Organization. The workshop will build upon the UNCTAD project on capacity-building of LDCs in trade in services for sustainable development.

Why preferential treatment matters

The services sector is a central component of the development aspirations of LDCs, accounting for major contributions to output and export value added. The share of services in direct exports is lower than that of goods, yet the sector remains a key avenue for diversification, as direct exports of services have been more dynamic and resilient than direct exports of goods. In LDCs, between 2008 and 2016, the share of services in total exports rose from 11 to 19 per cent. However, the share of LDC services exports in global exports remains at less than 1 per cent.

Preferential treatment for LDCs in trade in services allows for new or reinforced trade opportunities. The importance of special priority for LDCs is recognized by the General Agreement on Trade in Services. The services waiver further allows World Trade Organization members to derogate from the most-favoured nation obligation to provide preferential treatment to services and service suppliers from LDCs.

The relevance of the services waiver depends, however, on the additionality of preferences with regard to existing commitments at multilateral, regional and bilateral levels and with regard to applied regimes. An evaluation of the meaningfulness of preferences requires country-specific modal and sectoral analyses and thorough services assessments that provide benchmarks of significance and viability in support of preferential treatment initiatives.

National Case Studies

During the workshop, case studies will be presented of four LDCs, namely Cambodia, Nepal, Senegal and Zambia.

The studies review the implementation of the services waiver for these countries and seek to assess the relevance of the notified preferences, whether and to what extent exporters have been able to utilize the preferences granted and possible gaps and opportunities for better tailoring of preferences to the needs and capacities of LDCs. In addition, the studies identify the domestic capacity constraints faced by LDCs, including those related to infrastructure, skills, technology and regulatory and institutional frameworks, which may limit their ability to reap the benefits of the services waiver.

Key questions to be addressed

  • To what extent does preferential treatment adequately address the challenges faced by LDC services exporters with regard to access to foreign markets and domestic supply capacity?
  • How can preferential treatment contribute to the use of trade in services by LDCs as a development strategy?
  • What do LDC services suppliers need to succeed in export priority sectors and modes of supply?
  • How can preferential treatment granted under the World Trade Organization and related discussions in the Council for Trade in Services be better tailored to enable LDCs to successfully increase their services exports, thereby contributing to their overall development opportunities?
  • How can preferential treatment address domestic capacity constraints, including in infrastructure, skills and technology?


The workshop is open to all Geneva Delegates. Registration should be completed online.

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Ms. Marina Murina