AID FOR TRADE
The global trade community must act swiftly to mitigate the severe impact of the COVID-19 crisis on developing countries, and in particular least-developed countries (LDCs), the speakers highlighted at the Aid for Trade Stocktaking Event's plenary session, as LDCs have been hit the hardest by trade and economic disruptions arising from the pandemic. From the supply of health products such as masks to the approval and roll-out of vaccines, the multilateral trading system plays a crucial role in ensuring that no one is left behind in the post-pandemic trade and economic recovery process.
“Today the pandemic is reversing hard-won development gains, adding to the problems facing the most vulnerable,” DG Okonjo-Iweala said. “The post-COVID recovery must not leave anyone, or any country, behind. The first step towards this goal must be a rapid, global vaccine roll-out that ends the pandemic. We need more trade cooperation to address supply bottlenecks, lower regulatory hurdles, facilitate trade, and finance vaccine purchases. Keeping global markets open is essential for a strong and sustained recovery. The organisations and Members that have cooperated on the Aid for Trade initiative have made a huge difference in peoples' lives. Working together now to invest in the recovery of trading partners is not just the right thing to do. Building back a greener, more equitable, more prosperous global economy is a matter of economic self-interest for all countries.”
Read her full speech here.
The speakers provided an overview of global trade flows, pointing to a broad recovery of goods trade driven by medical products. They noted that services trade was also rising but at a slower pace. They underlined the important role that global cooperation has played in maintaining the flow of goods and food and called for keeping export restraints in check. An inclusive, robust and green economic recovery will require open markets and continued mobilizing of trade financing to help developing countries and LDCs build resilience to future shocks and alleviate extreme poverty. Through initiatives such as Aid for Trade, the global community can help address these countries' trade needs so that they may play a more active role in global trade and meet their development objectives, the speakers said.
Promoting and facilitating investment, investing in health systems, implementing trade facilitation measures and addressing debt and balance of payments issues featured among the strategies cited.
The World Health Organization's Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said: “The pandemic is a devastating demonstration that health and the economy are integrated and inter-dependent. When health is at risk, everything is at risk. But when health is protected and promoted, individuals, families, communities, economies and nations can flourish. The pandemic will subside, but there will be another one. And countries will continue to face myriad health challenges that sap productivity, fuel inequality, and hold nations back. We can only truly respond and recover if we think of health not as a cost, but as an investment in the safer, fairer and more prosperous world we all want.”
The International Monetary Fund's Managing Director, Kristalina Georgieva, said: “A rebound in trade, if it is managed well, can lead to growth and raise living standards in the developing world. And we know trade increases job opportunities, trade increases access for poor households to affordable goods and services. Trade will be at the heart of efforts to build forward towards a greener, more inclusive and digital recovery. We get a chance to transform our economies — a chance to make them smart, green, more equitable. Trade can play a hugely important role in that regard.”
The World Bank's President, David Malpass, said: “As countries formulate policies for recovery, they have a chance to embark on a green, resilient and inclusive development path, setting a foundation for robust growth and development in the longer run. To build back better, we need more trade. If countries work to open their economies and lower trade costs through improved logistics and connectivity, the recovery from COVID will be much faster and stronger. We need to ensure a level playing field, governed by transparent and predictable rules. Reducing trade policy uncertainty will be critical to reviving global investment and growth.”
The Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development's Secretary-General, Angel Gurría, said: “What the pandemic made clear to us is that we must ensure that trade and investment provide maximum development footprint in partner countries. The ultimate shock of the COVID-19 crisis will be poverty. And programmes like Aid for Trade are essential to build forward better. Without a sustained trade and investment flow, the strong, resilient, inclusive and green recovery we strive for will not be realised. As we forge ahead, only by working together with the right political leadership will we be able to tackle the challenges ahead.”
The Acting Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, Isabelle Durant, said: “To ensure access to critical goods, we need to keep goods flowing across borders. And we need trade because it is a powerful engine for job and income creation, and it is a critical source for foreign exchange. Today we can demonstrate our united front and commitment to rebuild, including through Aid for Trade. The post COVID-19 world is still somewhat far away but we cannot lose another day without working on the recovery. And with our joint determination, our will to find common solutions and invest in multilateralism, we can make a valuable contribution.”