Singapore supports update of WTO rules, will not use special provisions for developing nations: Chan Chun Sing

Singapore supports update of WTO rules, will not use special provisions for developing nations: Chan Chun Sing

Singapore skyline
Singapore's skyline in the evening. (File photo: Jeremy Long)

SINGAPORE: Singapore said it will not seek special provisions in negotiations that it is entitled to under its “developing country” status in the World Trade Organization (WTO).

This is part of the country’s efforts to “support, uphold and update WTO rules”, said Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing on Wednesday (Sep 18).

“Singapore commits to not seek special and differential treatment in ongoing and future negotiations at the WTO,” said Mr Chan, adding that this commitment builds on the country’s policy so far.

Developing country status in the WTO allows governments longer timelines for implementing free trade commitments, as well as the ability to protect some domestic industry and maintain subsidies.

"As a small economy with no natural resources and a high reliance on global trade, Singapore is a developing country WTO member," noted the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) in a news release on Wednesday.

While the special and differential treatment (SDT) remains important to help WTO members fully integrate into the multilateral trading system, “all members should take on commitments commensurate with their abilities”, said MTI.

The ministry had said in July that Singapore does not take advantage of the flexibilities provided by special provisions at the WTO when negotiating agreements.

Those comments came after US President Donald Trump put pressure on the WTO to change how it designates developing countries, noting that seven of the world’s 10 wealthiest economies claim developing country status.

The Trump administration has long complained that WTO rules are unfair to the United States.

On Wednesday, MTI said WTO must regularly update its rules to ensure it remains relevant in a rapidly changing global economy.

One such area under discussion is the special and differential treatment that comes with the developing country status, it added.

“Singapore supports an open, rules-based multilateral trading system embodied by the WTO,” said MTI.

“We remain committed to working with all members to uphold and update the WTO and the multilateral trading system.”

Source: CNA/gs