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‘Discipline’ trade to support achievement of sustainable development, UNCTAD chief urges

A disciplined international trading system for the benefit of development should be the goal for the years following 2015,” UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi said Monday afternoon, while the Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Roberto Azevêdo, said that the deep connections between trade and development should serve to provide new impetus to WTO’s 3–6 December Bali ministerial meeting being held as part of the long-running Doha round of trade negotiations.

Dr. Kituyi, Mr. Azevêdo, and International Trade Centre (ITC) Executive Director Arancha González were addressing UNCTAD’s Trade and Development Board on the topic of how the vast power of growing international sales of goods and services can be harnessed to contribute to lasting progress that broadly raises living standards. 

Dr. Kituyi said that “the unique, Geneva-based value chain of expertise in trade should be harnessed so that it plays a major role in international efforts to achieve sustainable and inclusive development – in what is being called the post-2015 development agenda.”

Dr. Kituyi’s participation in extensive discussions at United Nations Headquarters in New York last week on development approaches after 2015 has led him to propose the establishment of a Geneva-based open-ended working group to provide input on trade’s immense potential role for achieving sustainable progress. “It is vital for close links to be established between Geneva’s cluster of trade-focused agencies and the development debate taking place in New York,” he told the meeting. Many member States welcomed this suggestion.

We believe in the importance of a multilateral negotiated trading system that is responsive to the needs of developing countries,” Dr. Kituyi explained at the afternoon session. “But we also understand that there are many challenges. Recent trends in trade, including the removal of tariff barriers, have helped the prospects of developing countries,” he said, “but non-tariff barriers have reduced some of the benefits.” He added; “A rules-based multilateral negotiating system is preferable to the current multiplying system of bilateral and regional treaties.”

The presence in Geneva of UNCTAD, WTO and ITC provides great opportunities for building synergies between our institutions and mutually reinforcing the trade aspects of the development agenda,” he said. “UNCTAD’s analytical work can find optimal use in part through working with organizations such as ITC and WTO.” Representatives of several regional groups and a number of UNCTAD member States expressed support for the idea of creating such a working group when Dr. Kituyi first unveiled it at the Trade and Development Board session Monday morning. The Secretary-General told that meeting: “The best way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of UNCTAD is to put trade and issues of trade at the centre of the development debate and firmly on the development agenda.”

WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo said that Geneva’s trade agencies “share absolutely deep convictions of the connections between trade and development. The best way forward is through multilateral negotiations where everyone – and every State, large and small – is heard and has input into the decisions reached,” he said.

Mr. Azevêdo told the meeting: “I am a bit concerned because trade isn’t picking up as we wished it was. We recently had to revise projected growth for this year downwards, from 3.3 per cent to only 2.2 per cent.”

Among the good news,” Mr. Azevêdo said, “is that opportunities are arising for developing countries. They can fit into these developing global value chains. With the degree of competitiveness that they can reach now, they can fit into this situation.” He said that the challenge was to identify opportunities and design policies to help developing nations connect to value chains. “It should be possible, and it shouldn’t be that expensive, either,” he said.

Mr. Azevêdo said that in order to take advantage of those new opportunities, “we have to update the framework of the trading system. We still have a system from 30 years ago.”

Arancha González, Executive Director of ITC, told the meeting that her organization “is very much premised on this notion that trade can, should, and does lead to sustainable and inclusive growth for developing countries, and particularly for the least developed and the most vulnerable.”

ITC, along with UNCTAD, will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2014”, she noted, “and ITC’s focus will continue to be on a practical, hands-on approach to assisting thousands of policymakers, trade and investment institutions, and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to translate trade opportunities into trade flows.” 

Dr. Kituyi and Mr. Azevêdo called upon their organizations’ member States to play an active part in efforts to enlist global trade in boosting sustainable and inclusive development.

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