News and Publications
Stumbling Blocks Appear in Negotiations on UN LDC Summit
UN members will meet in Istanbul from 9-13 May for the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (UNLDC-IV). They are expected to assess the plan of action adopted at the last such conference, in Brussels in 2001, and to adopt new strategies to support the sustainable development of LDCs. LDC governments, the EU, the US, Japan, Switzerland and a group composed of Canada, Australia and New Zealand (CANZ) have taken the lead in submitting proposals, which have come to constitute the current draft negotiating text.
The Istanbul conference was to help foster a structural transformation of LDC economies in order to facilitate their rapid graduation; however significant differences separate key governments in the negotiations.
Preparatory talks for the Istanbul meeting have revolved around various topics : On trade, the discussions have centered on issues including duty- and quota-free market access for LDC exports, Aid for Trade (AfT), and regional cooperation. LDCs want an increase in AfT that would go beyond already-planned flows of Official Development Assistance (ODA) ; this request for additional AfT funding is not reflected in the draft text. Also regional integration, including ‘South-South' cooperation was only marginally mentioned in the recent draft. Other subjects covered by draft text include rules of origin and effects of the food and economic crisis and the climate change threats.
LDC delegates said there should be limited improvements of this text upon the Brussels Program of Action (BPoA).
In a recent meeting most participants underscored the need for strategic action, effective monitoring and political momentum to support efficiently the BPoA. Many discussants underlined the heterogeneity of LDCs and the absence of specific approach in the evaluation mechanism. "A Radical approach is absent" said Debapriya Bhattacharya former Representative of Bangladesh to the UN offices and WTO.
Divisions over the draft text suggest that intensive negotiations will be necessary if governments are to agree on a new development strategy for LDCs in time for the conference in Istanbul. The next meeting of the Intergovernmental Preparatory Committee will be held in New York, 4-8 April.
For more information please see: http://www.un.org/wcm/content/site/ldc/home
ACP-OIF hold symposium on South-South Cooperation
In early February, the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group co-hosted with the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) a Symposium in Brussels on "Enhancing South-South Cooperation: Challenges and Opportunities".
"The discussions today should, I hope, be able to raise awareness of key issues linked to international aid for development, explore the possibilities for the ACP Group's effective engagement in South-South cooperation programmes, and assist in devising a process that will enable the ACP Group to contribute to the deepening of partnerships for South-South cooperation and triangular cooperation", H.E Dr Mohammed Ibn Chambas, Secretary General of the ACP Group said in his introductory address to the meeting which convened for the first time both the EU and emerging economies such as India, Brazil and South Africa.
For more information, see http://www.acpsec.org/en/2011-files/COA/press_release_acp_oif_symp_2011.html.The speech by H.E Chambas is also available, at http://www.acpsec.org/en/2011-files/COA/sg_addresses_symposium_2011.html), as well as the speech by PI Gomes, chairman of the ACP Committee of Ambassadors. http://www.acpsec.org/en/2011-files/COA/acp_chair_speech_oif_acp_symp_2011.html
The EU commission released its first "Trade and Investment Barriers" report
The EU Commission published on 10 March its first Trade and Investment Barriers report that identifies important barriers in the markets of six strategic economic partners including China, India, Russia, Brazil, Argentina, Japan and the United States and proposes specific actions to remove them. Dismantling these barriers would improve and open up new export and investment opportunities for European investors and exporters in those countries.
According to the report, a significant volume of European trade to those countries (9 to 12 % of EU's total exports in 2009 and some €6 billion EU imports of raw materials) can be considered to have been negatively impacted so far by barriers to trade in those countries.
Addressing these issues is therefore critical for the EU, the document says, all the more since the EU has currently no bilateral FTA with four out of the six economies concerned by the report.
Opening government procurement markets through the launch of a specific dedicated initiative, and raising market access issues at the highest political level during Bilateral summits or in appropriate fora such as the EU-China High Level Economic Dialogue are two possible examples of way forward suggested by the Report. The report is available at http://register.consilium.europa.eu/pdf/en/11/st07/st07599.en11.pdf
Trade and Investment strategy report sets out UK support to Africa's trade
Released on 9 February by the UK Government, the Trade and Investment strategy (White paper) highlights the new approach to supporting trade induced growth domestically, internationally and regionally. Particular emphasis is placed on supporting SMEs to expand and export
Finalising the Doha Round, negotiating ambitious EU FTAs with strategic partners such as India, Singapore or Latin America, promoting greater market access for LDCs and pursuing regional integration through bilateral aid programmes notably in Africa are part of a range of actions set out in the report "to help secure a strong and sustainable global economy."
Part of this strategy is the African Free Trade Initiative (AFTi) - a new initiative aimed at "boost[ing] African trade through reduced bureaucracy, improved transport infrastructure and more efficient border crossings" said the UK Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell who further argued that "AFTi will make trade in Africa faster, easier and cheaper, speeding up access to markets for traders and encouraging entrepreneurs in the region to grow their businesses."
To access the full report, please go to http://www.bis.gov.uk/assets/biscore/international-trade-investment-and-development/docs/t/11-717-trade-investment-for-growth.pdf . For more information on the AFTi, please consult http://www.dfid.gov.uk/Media-Room/News-Stories/2011/UK-Government-ramps-up-trading-in-Africa/