WTO news: what’s been happening in the WTO

14 May 2001

WTO Director-General describes United Nations conference as opportunity to help ‘poorest of the poor’

WTO Director-General Mike Moore today called on wealthy nations and international organizations to step up their efforts to help the ‘poorest of the poor.’

Speaking at the Third United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries in Brussels, Mr. Moore said “we are here to address the poverty and economic marginalization that grips the world's poorest countries. We are here to reaffirm our commitment to the citizens in these countries for whom every day is a struggle to survive. We are here to see what we can do to assist the poorest of the poor.”

Mr. Moore praised the commitment to development shown by other senior international figures attending the conference including French President Jacques Chirac, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, UNCTAD Secretary-General Rubens Ricupero and World Bank President Jim Wolfensohn.

Building on the work of similar initiatives in Paris in 1981 and 1990, the conference is designed to consider appropriate national and international responses to assist the 49 Least Developed Countries (representing 10.5 per cent of the world population) with their successful integration into the world economy.

“This is an opportunity to help Least Developed Countries”, said Mr. Moore. “It is an opportunity that must be seized upon. Least Developed Countries are ill-equipped to develop their economies and ensure an adequate standard of living for their citizens. They represent the weakest segment of the international community and their social and economic development is a major challenge for all of us. This Conference will discuss the challenges faced by these countries in a globalized economy and, I hope, agree on measures the international community can take to assist.”

Mr. Moore said responsibility for development rested first with LDC governments themselves. He added, however, that the international community must do more to meet the challenge of poverty reduction. He called on donor countries to provide more aid and technical assistance. He urged accelerated debt relief to the most heavily indebted poor countries. He called on richer nations to improve market access conditions for LDC products into their countries. He also encouraged the launching of a new round of multilateral trade negotiations. President Chirac and Secretary General Annan joined Mr. Moore in calling for a new round of negotiations.

“At the moment, Least Developed Countries have less than 1 percent of world exports. I believe an effective way to prevent the further marginalization of Least Developed Countries from the world economy is through the launch of a new round of multilateral trade negotiations. A round offers the poorest and most disenfranchised among us the leverage to obtain wider access for their products, more funds for technical assistance and more flexibility in implementing their commitments under existing WTO rules.”

The Conference continues through the current week. On Thursday 17 May, the Director-General will address a Special Session on ‘International Trade, Commodities and Services/Tourism’. He is expected to use this opportunity to announce a series of ‘deliverables’ from the WTO. These are policies and activities designed to assist Least Developed Countries better to participate in the multilateral trading system.