Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries

> Pascal Lamy’s speeches


Last September, we were gathered in New York to see where we stood on the implementation of the Millennium Goals.  This Conference in Istanbul, devoted to the least developed countries, is part and parcel of that process. It is, after all, on the most vulnerable countries, the poorest, the most disadvantaged, that the international community must focus its efforts to provide support in the development policy area.

How has the contribution of international trade to the development of the LDCs progressed over the past ten years? Among the remaining challenges, where should we be focusing our attention in the coming years?
When it comes to the contribution of international trade to the performance of the LDCs, the progress is unquestionable: their average growth rate of 7% over the past decade exceeds the world average, and trade accounts for two thirds of that growth. During the same period, LDC trade grew twice as fast as world trade.

Three countries — Cambodia, Nepal and Cape Verde — acceded to the WTO as LDCs over the past ten years.  A fourth, Vanuatu, will be joining the extensive WTO family in a few weeks' time.

Today, the LDCs account for one fifth of all WTO Members, and receive close to half of our technical assistance.

Official Development Assistance in the LDC trade capacity building area has also progressed, from 5 billion dollars in the early 2000s to 12 billion in 2009.

So on the whole, we are on the right path: the LDCs’ share in world trade has doubled in the space of 10 years.

And yet, the LDCs still account for only 1% of world trade.  In other words, the contribution of international trade to the development of the LDCs remains inadequate. Hence our objectives for the coming years — in the WTO negotiations, in LDC accessions, in Aid for Trade.

Let us begin with market access. Though it may be improving, access for LDC exports free of duty and quantitative restrictions is not always a foregone conclusion at the WTO.

The decision remains blocked along with the rest of the Doha Round negotiations, essentially owing to disagreements between the developed countries and the emerging countries on other subjects.  The same applies to the simplification of rules of origin, whose complexity remains a barrier to LDC exports.

In the trade regulations area, other decisions of the utmost importance for the LDCs are being held up for similar reasons:  take, for instance, the reduction and elimination of subsidies that are crippling agricultural production in the LDCs, as exemplified by the cotton issue.

It is both essential and urgent that we unblock these decisions in favour of the LDCs, and I sincerely hope that this Conference will send a clear message to the negotiators on that specific point.

When it comes to accessions, the objective is to speed up procedures for the dozen or so LDCs that are currently negotiating their accession to the WTO, for example Ethiopia, Laos, Liberia, Samoa, and Yemen, to name but a few.

As regards Official Development Assistance in the trade area, the idea is essentially to keep up the effort and to try to improve distribution: today, two thirds of assistance goes to only 10 LDCs.  The recent improvements to the Integrated Framework, which brings together the most heavily involved international organizations, should help.

In conclusion I would say that all in all, the contribution of fairer and more open trade to the development of the LDCs — and this was our watchword in Brussels 10 year ago — has been substantial. However, there remains significant untapped potential.  There are a number of vital issues specifically concerning the rules governing LDC trade that require urgent decisions.  I sincerely hope that this Conference will help to make this come about.


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