SINGAPORE: Singapore does not take advantage of the flexibilities provided by special provisions at the World Trade Organization (WTO) when negotiating agreements, said the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) on Saturday (Jul 27).

The special provisions, known as special and differential treatment provisions (SDT), give developing countries special rights and allow other members to treat them more favourably.

MTI’s comments come 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.

These economies include Singapore, Brunei, Hong Kong, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

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.

READ: Rich nations like Singapore should not use ‘developing country’ status to gain WTO special treatment: Trump

In response to CNA’s queries, an MTI spokesperson said: “Singapore does not take advantage of the flexibilities provided by special and differential treatment (SDT) at the WTO in negotiating agreements.

“For instance we committed to implement the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement upon entry into force, instead of seeking a transition period.”

The spokesperson added that Singapore fully supports the importance of updating WTO rules to ensure the organisation’s continued relevance.

“We are key partners in discussions on strengthening and updating the WTO. Our role as co-convener in the WTO Joint Statement Initiative on E-Commerce is an example,” said MTI.

“We are in contact with our WTO partners, including the US.”

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

In a memo on Friday, Mr Trump directed the US Trade Representative to stop treating such countries as developing countries for the purpose of WTO membership, if “substantial progress” toward reform had not been made within 90 days.

While the statement points to multiple economies that benefit from the developing nation designation, it focuses mostly on China.

The memo said nearly two-thirds of WTO member countries had been given access to special treatment by designating themselves developing countries, especially China.

“The United States has never accepted China’s claim to developing-country status, and virtually every current economic indicator belies China’s claim,” it said, noting China’s gross domestic product was the second largest in the world, behind only the United States.

“China and too many other countries have continued to style themselves as developing countries, allowing them to enjoy the benefits that come with that status and seek weaker commitments than those made by other WTO Members,” it said.