Statement by ITC Executive Director at the fifth Meeting of Trade Ministers of Landlocked Developing Countries

23 June 2016
ITC News
Statement by ITC Executive Director Arancha González at the fifth Meeting of Trade Ministers of Landlocked Developing Countries.

Enhancing implementation of the trade and development agendas for the LLDCS, the Vienna programme of action and the 2030 agenda for sustainable development

23 June 2016- Geneva

Ladies and Gentlemen

I would like to add my thanks to the UN-OHRLLS and the WTO for this opportunity to exchange views on improving the trade potential of the LLDCs.

I applaud the choice of the theme for today’s discussion: “Harnessing the trade potential of the LLDCs”. It is only by leveraging trade opportunities that we will see transformative change, sustainable and inclusive growth and ultimately, poverty elimination.

With the trade blueprint of the Vienna Programme of Action in one hand and the development compass of the UN Global Goals in the other, we are well positioned to move from pledges to practice. The focus has to be on action and no longer just words.

The International Trade Centre will continue to be your partner in practice. As a development organisation of both the World Trade Organisation and the United Nations we work with your countries and your SMEs to ensure trade potential turns into trade reality on the ground. Trade rules are critical. But their implementation is where the real deliverables for poverty reduction and growth lay.

This brings me to my main message of this morning: if harnessed properly, trade can and has transformed lives. If we are sufficiently strategic, innovative and inclusive – trade will continue to do this in the LLDCs.

For us to be strategic, it is crucial that we make an effort to better understand the real challenges which SMEs in your countries face today. They make up more than 90% of your economic ecosystem and over 70% of jobs especially for women.

SMEs have to be front and centre to your trade policy

Although the conditions to trade in LLDCs may be geographically similar, the main barriers to trade may not necessarily be identical in all 32 of your economies.

From the Non-tariff measures (NTMs) business surveys which ITC has undertaken in LLDCs, we know that “export-related measures” such as export permits and export inspections pose the biggest challenge to exporting companies in Malawi; whereas in Kazakhstan it is “rules of origin and related certificate of origin” that poses the biggest hurdle to exporting companies; and in Rwanda, it is actually “conformity assessment” related to product testing and certification which presents the most significant trade hurdle.

With this type of real-life granular data, we can better steer our interventions and support your companies to overcome the day-to-day challenges they face when trying to trade across borders. Identifying the problem has to be the first step in addressing the solution and creating opportunities.

When it comes to circumventing the physical border constraints that LLDC traders experience, it is imperative that we challenge ourselves to bein novative. E-commerce solutions that connect SMEs to international markets through established virtual marketplaces and payment systems for business-to-consumer or business-to-business transactions should be prioritized through your national policies and regulations.

Following successful interventions in this area, ITC is already working towards a tailor-made e-solutions offer to LLDCs. Later this year, we will launch the Africa Electronic Commerce Cooperative in an effort to bring e-solutions to Ethiopia and Rwanda. Mongolia is also benefiting from our online platforms initiative.

Innovative trade facilitation activities can also play a catalytic role. For example, ITC’s Trade Facilitation interventions in Burundi and Uganda uses a two-pronged approach: encouraging policy reforms to make border procedures simpler and faster, especially for small scale traders; and working to bolster the capacity of women involved in cross-border commerce to understand and comply with regulations. In 2015 alone we helped hundreds of women to transition informal to formalized cross border trading. And underlying this is the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement where we have worked in over 40 countries- helping many to implement the Agreement, starting with its ratification. With respect to the 9 LLDCs that have ratified the agreement, ITC has worked with UNCTAD to help 6 of these countries to notify their ratification.

These types of innovative approaches must be coupled with more traditional forms of support. For that reason, we will also strengthen our existing interventions supporting Paraguay with regional integration related trade and market intelligence; supporting Tajikistan on post- WTO Accession; working with Central African Republic and Mongolia to build private sector awareness around the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement; developing agri-processing value chains in Central and West Africa. And the list goes on.

And finally, trade must be inclusive. Although the Vienna Programme does not itself explicitly mention the issue of women’s economic empowerment, it goes without saying that the Programme’s overarching goal of “sustainable and inclusive growth” necessarily includes the empowerment of women and youth. This is also a key area of focus under the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

ITC’s focus on women’s economic empowerment in LLDCs means targeting sectors have high female participation, such as textiles in Burkina Faso and Nepal; horticulture in Lesotho; tourism in Laos; coffee in Rwanda and leather in Zimbabwe.

Last year I made a commitment to invest 70% of ITC resources in LLDCs, LDCs, SIDS, and sub-Saharan African regions; today I can tell you we have surpassed the target and want to do even more.

As was the case under the Almaty Programme of Action, rest assured that ITC remains a committed partner in your efforts to achieve sustainable and inclusive economic growth under the Vienna Programme of Action and your national development plans.

Before I close, allow me to extend a personal invitation to the ITC “e-Commerce Caravan” organized in Geneva and Zurich from 1 July. This 'caravan of peace' will bring entrepreneurs from Rwanda, Ethiopia and Senegal amongst others, to showcase merchandise which we have helped to be made available for purchase online. This will be Friday, 1st July at the Place des Nations and July 4 here at WTO. This is an example of trade impact for good and making trade happen on the ground.

Because whether you are landlocked or coastal, trade is your friend.

Thank you for your attention.