A breakthrough: WTO Members deliver for world's poorest countries

Media release

26 July 2012

Trade and Competitiveness Minister Craig Emerson today welcomed the decision by members of the World Trade Organization to streamline the process under which least developed countries join the organisation.

The decision, made by the 155 members of the WTO at the General Council meeting in Geneva overnight, will make it easier for the world’s poorest nations to enjoy the benefits of the global trading system.

The move is the result of a commitment by Trade Ministers at the Eighth WTO Ministerial Conference in December last year to reach agreement on how to simplify the accession process for least developed countries by July this year.

Australia played an important role in negotiating the streamlined process, which makes allowances for the challenges poor countries may face when liberalising trade in goods and services.

“Changes that the world’s poorest countries make to comply with global trade rules set them up to compete in the global marketplace,” Dr Emerson said.

“This, in turn, provides them with the chance to liberate the poorest people on earth from poverty.”

Dr Emerson said WTO members now needed to find new pathways to agreement on other areas of world trade negotiations, where consensus was possible.

“WTO members have demonstrated they can strike a deal to improve world trading rules - an important step in demonstrating that multilateral trade negotiations can work,” Dr Emerson said. 

“This decision shows the approach advocated by Prime Minister Gillard to unlock world trade talks is delivering results.”

Of the world’s 48 least developed countries, 10 are currently negotiating their accession to the WTO.  They are: Afghanistan, BhutanComorosEquatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Lao PDR, LiberiaSao Tomé & PrincipeSudan and Yemen.  Thirty-two least developed countries are already WTO members.

Media enquiries

  • Minister's Office: (02) 6277 4330
  • DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555