Handbook on Duty-Free and Quota-Free Market Access and Rules of Origin for Least Developed Countries (Part II)

Other Developed Countries and Developing Countries

Least developed countries (LDCs) have been granted preferential tariff treatment in the markets of developed and developing countries under a number of schemes and arrangements, such as the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), the trade preferences under the former African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of Countries (ACP)–European Community (EC) Cotonou Partnership Agreement, and other preferential instruments granted to selected countries and groups of countries. In spite of these existing initiatives, there were remaining significant obstacles to LDCs market access.

The 1996 Singapore Ministerial Declaration refocused the attention of the trading community on the idea of unilateral preferences by launching the initiative of special trade preferences for LDCs, including provisions for taking positive measures, for example duty free access on an autonomous basis.

In response to the Singapore proposal, a number of initiatives were undertaken to provide more favourable market access conditions for LDCs.

In spite of these initiatives, the LDCs and the international trade community felt that the progress made was not yet sufficient. In fact, the Hong Kong (China) Ministerial decision re-launched the idea of providing duty-free and quota-free to LDCs as follows:

“We agree that developed-country Members shall, and developing-country Members declaring themselves in a position to do so should:

  1. (i) Provide duty-free and quota-free market access on a lasting basis, for all products originating from all LDCs by 2008 or no later than the start of the implementation period in a manner that ensures stability, security and predictability.

    (ii) Members facing difficulties at this time to provide market access as set out above shall provide dutyfree and quota-free market access for at least 97 per cent of products originating from LDCs, defined at the tariff line level, by 2008 or no later than the start of the implementation period. In addition, these Members shall take steps to progressively achieve compliance with the obligations set out above, taking into account the impact on other developing countries at similar levels of development, and, as appropriate, by incrementally building on the initial list of covered products.

    (iii) Developing-country Members shall be permitted to phase in their commitments and shall enjoy appropriate flexibility in coverage.

  2. (b) Ensure that preferential rules of origin applicable to imports from LDCs are transparent and simple, and contribute to facilitating market access.

Part I of the Handbook covered the trade preferences granted by Canada, the European Community, Japan and the United States of America.

The present handbook reviews the progress made to implement the Hong Kong (China) Ministerial Decision on the Duty-Free Quota-Free (DFQF) by other Developed countries and Developing countries in the light of past initiatives and ongoing negotiations in the context of the Doha round of trade negotiations.