Opening markets to trade with poor countries was a key part of the eighth Millennium Development Goal and its global partnership for development. Countries recognized that development is about more than aid and that the poorest countries needed to be more integrated with the global economy to help them create jobs and opportunities for growth. In 2005, the World Trade Organization embraced this goal and developing country members agreed that those of them “in a position to do so” should also open their markets to the least developed countries (LDCs). Since then, most developed countries have removed barriers on at least 98 percent of all goods for LDC exporters, while China and India adopted less expansive programs to improve market access for these countries.
This paper explores how the United States could open its market to Asian LDCs while protecting current trade preference beneficiaries and US jobs. Support from the Obama administration for a compromise along these lines would help to ensure a positive outcome at the upcoming World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial meeting in Bali. That, in turn, would provide key support for the multilateral trade system at a time when so much attention is on the regional negotiations across the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.