At the WTO’s Hong Kong Ministerial Conference in December 2005, governments agreed that “developed-country Members shall, and developing-country Members declaring themselves in a position to do so should…provide duty-free and quota-free market access” to LDC exports.

Countries were permitted to shield up to 3 percent of product types (tariff lines) from the duty- and quota- free obligation. Critics pointed out at the time that this exemption could potentially be enough to cover the handful of products that LDCs can export competitively. The unrestricted market access was to enter into effect no later than the start of the Doha Round implementation period. With the Doha Round in indeterminate state, however, Members have not been obliged to implement the Hong Kong decision.

Recent information confirmed that the Brazilian government plans to start granting duty- and quota-free market access to exports from 32 of the world poorest countries for the first half 2007. If realised the move would make Brazil the first developing country to accord unconstrained access to goods from the 32 least-developed countries (LDC) Members of the WTO. 

As one would have expected part of the Brazilian business groups are worried about the effects of fully liberalising all imports from all LDCs. The most concerned industries according to local sources are to be found in the textile, electronics, chemical, and machine equipment sectors. Industry representatives have asked for some 1300 products to be designated as sensitive, while the government wants to accept no more than 900. The major concern among Brazilian industry representatives is that LDCs might become a channel for Chinese exports to be assembled and exported duty-free to Brazil. 

Source: WTO press releases, Euratex

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