S Korea to give up WTO’s developing country status that includes wealthiest countries

Oct 25, 2019 (LBO) – South Korea is to give up special treatment reserved for developing countries by the World Trade Organization in future negotiations given its enhanced global economic status, its finance minister said on Friday.

South Korea, Asia’s fourth-largest economy, has maintained its developing country status as a member of the WTO since the body’s creation in 1995, mainly to guard its agriculture industry.

In late July, US President Donald Trump put pressure on the WTO to change how it designates developing countries, singling out China, with which the United States is engaged in a trade war, for unfairly getting preferential treatment.

He pointed out that many of the wealthiest economies in the world are designated as developing countries, including Brunei, Hong Kong, Kuwait, Macao, Qatar, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, Mexico, South Korea and Turkey.

But special emphasis was placed on China, the second-largest economy and the largest exporter of goods in the world.

According to Trump, such countries have been taken “unfair advantage” of the special treatment and weaker commitments under WTO rules as developing countries.

These special treatments include longer timeframes for the imposition of safeguards, generous transition periods, softer tariff cuts, procedural advantages in WTO disputes and the ability to utilize certain export subsidies.

There are no WTO definitions of “developed” and “developing” countries and members announce for themselves whether they are “developed” or “developing” countries.

However, other members can challenge the decision of a member to make use of provisions available to developing countries.