Special and differential treatment/least developed countries

Tariffs applied to imported goods have been decreasing over time across developed, developing and least developed countries (LDCs). Key drivers of this global trend are the progressive liberalization achieved under the multilateral trading system, as well as, the expansion of preferential market access under regional trade agreements, unilateral tariff liberalization and non-reciprocal preference schemes in recent years.

The Addis Ababa Action Agenda specifically:

  • Commits WTO members to implement the provisions of special and differential treatment for developing countries, in particular LDCs
  • Welcomes the establishment of the monitoring mechanism to analyse and review all aspects of the implementation of special and differential treatment provisions with a view to strengthening them and making them more precise, effective and operational as well as facilitating integration of developing and least-developed WTO members into the multilateral trading system
  • Calls on WTO members to realize timely implementation of duty-free and quota-free (DFQF) market access on a lasting basis for all products originating from all LDCs
  • Calls on WTO members to facilitate market access for products of LDCs, including by developing simple and transparent rules of origin applicable to imports from LDCs 


Latest developments

The question of who should continue to benefit from Special and Differential Treatment has been discussed recently. Some WTO members feel that eligibility for special and differential treatment should be determined before any negotiations start on the WTO reform. Others feel that potential flexibilities, and the extent to which members can use them, should be part of a negotiation. Still others want the present system of self-denomination and undifferentiated Special and Differential Treatment for developing countries to continue. The Trade Facilitation Agreement shows that functional, good-faith solutions on Special and Differential Treatment are possible, although other templates and alternatives may also be found.

Read more on the multilateral trading system here.

Relevant SDG indicator