This document was developed as part of the intensification of UNCTAD`s work to promote the participation of least developed countries (LDCs) in trade. It should contribute to the debate on market access for service providers in the least developed countries. In particular, with regard to the World Trade Organization (WTO) service exemption decision adopted on 17 December 2011 (the “renouncement”). For more information on the least developed countries, visit the UNCTAD website (a new window opens). Perhaps most importantly, the waiver has been a catalyst for growing debate and awareness among policy makers, service providers and other stakeholders, both LDCs and current and potential importers of LDC services. But the task at hand for all those interested in integrating trade in services goes beyond the operationalization of renunciation. The derogation is only an instrument, among other things, of autonomous liberalisation to regional and bilateral agreements that allow the liberalisation of services in favour of LDCs. UNCTAD has for many years stressed the importance of trade in services and services to developing countries and the need to strengthen and diversify service sectors. This includes focusing on services and services-based exports.
Over the past 30 years, the share of services in the gross domestic product (GDP) of industrialized countries has increased from 61% to 75%, while the share of developing countries has increased from 42% to 55%. In LDCs, the share was and remains even smaller, but the growth trajectory is very clear: services are an important part of their economic future. Trade in services remains important, as exports have grown faster than exports of goods and have been more resilient. Even the least developed countries are doing a little better, but not as well as in other developing countries. Again, export growth from least developed countries, without countries at war or in transition, rose from 2.9% per year in the 1980s to 3.2% in the 1990s. And while GDP per person decreased by 0.6% per year in the 1980s, it increased by 0.8% per year in the 1990s. ELECTRONIC COMMERCE 34. We acknowledge the work that has been done in the General Council and other relevant bodies since the Ministerial Declaration of 20 May 1998 and agree to continue the e-commerce work programme. The work done to date shows that e-commerce creates new challenges and opportunities for members at all stages of development, and we recognize the importance of creating and preserving an environment conducive to the future development of e-commerce. We urge the General Council to examine the most appropriate institutional modalities for the review of the work programme and to report on the progress made at the fifth session of the Ministerial Conference.