Boosting Market Access for Least Developed Countries: ITC Encourages LDCs That Are Members of the WTO to Tap into Market Access Map, Its Market Analysis Tool, Free until September 2006

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Least developed countries (LDCs) that are members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) can now benefit from free market intelligence to help them gain market access and shape trade negotiations. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is investing US$ 200,000 in ITC's Market Access Map so that LDCs can use this tool, free of charge, until 30 September 2006.

Prior to the WTO Ministerial Meeting in Hong Kong in December, USAID is sponsoring three ITC workshops in Geneva to train LDC trade policy analysts on how to use Market Access Map, as well as a one-on-one help desk at ITC to assist trade officials in making full use of it in the lead-up to the Ministerial.

"The Doha Development Agenda is an important opportunity for all countries, including the world's poorest. LDCs need to analyse their market access situation and identify new opportunities. But they don't always have the information they need to make informed decisions on their bargaining positions," says ITC Executive Director J. Denis Belisle. "Market Access Map helps them to do this. It allows them to develop more effective bargaining positions both at the World Trade Organization and in regional trade talks."

Help for LDCs comes at the right moment. The overall share of LDCs in world trade remains very low (less than 1%). While developing countries as a whole are improving their market access, the world's poorest countries are not. Market access for LDCs is stagnating. Of all LDC exports (excluding oil), 77% were admitted duty-flee in developed markets in 1996; today this figure stands at around 72%.

One step toward changing these trends and levelling the playing field is to make tariff information more available to LDCs. Normally this information is complex and scattered across many sources.

Market Access Map brings this information together in one place, making tariff analysis more transparent. This tool makes it easier for LDCs to prepare their own bargaining positions--already in the run-up to Hong Kong. For example, countries can simulate the impact on tariffs of proposals tabled by other countries, and use that information to identify their negotiation points.

Bird's-eye view of market access

Market Access Map, a web-based tariff analysis tool, provides a comprehensive source of tariffs and market access measures applied at the bilateral level by 170 importing countries to the products exported by 239 countries and territories. Products are described at the most detailed level, the national tariff line.

"This tool gives users a bird's-eye view of the world in terms of their current market access situation," says Mr Belisle. "It allows them to plan for the future by optimizing trade strategies based on the market access status quo, and can help them try to change or improve current conditions."

Find your competitive niche

Several developing countries, including African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, are already using Market Access Map to simulate tariff reductions or find products and markets that are important in the current WTO Doha Development Agenda talks and where they can be especially competitive.

Pinpoint vulnerable exports

Pinpointing which products and markets are vulnerable to competition is an important step in planning trade negotiation strategies. LDCs are often vulnerable to changes in market access status conditions, in view of the limited number of products that many of them export. …