HC Deb 10 July 2003 vol 408 cc892-3W
Mrs. Curtis-Thomas

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps the Government has taken to secure(a) fairness, (b) transparency and (c) democracy in the application of trade rules. [124374]

Mr. Mike O'Brien

The UK Government is committed to ensuring that the multilateral rules-based international trading system, embodied in the World Trade Organisation (WTO),continues to work on a fair, transparent, and democratic basis.

All decisions within the WTO are already taken on the basis of consensus. That means that if any one of the WTO's 146 members opposes any proposed change it cannot be implemented.

The UK played a major part in pushing for changes to the way WTO negotiations were conducted after the Seattle Ministerial Conference in 1999. The UK also supports greater external transparency for the organisation, and important steps to achieving this have been taken through the earlier release of documents.

We recognise that developing countries may need assistance in order to be able to participate more effectively in the WTO-based system. The UK has therefore committed £45 million for trade-related technical assistance and capacity building initiatives since 1998.

The UK also recognises that not all WTO members can implement all WTO rules now. This is why we support an approach to the current round of trade negotiations which recognises that WTO members are at very different stages of development and have different capacities to implement WTO rules. To help countries to manage their commitments under the WTO, we are pressing for Special and Differential Treatment provisions within the WTO Agreements to be real and binding, and for any new WTO rules to reflect countries' implementation capacities.

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many of the members of the World Trade Organisation are from developing countries; and how many developing countries are seeking to join the organisation. [124375]

Mr. Mike O'Brien

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) currently has 146 Members. 106 of those countries can be defined as Developing Countries (based on the World Bank's definition—there is no single agreed definition of 'Developing Country' within the WTO Agreements). Least Developed Countries (LDCs) account for 30 of those 106 countries.

On the same basis, 25 of the 27 countries currently negotiating to join the WTO can be defined as Developing Countries. 10 of these are LDCs.

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