Remarks by Director-General Roberto Azevêdo

> Roberto Azevêdo’s speeches


Secretary General Kituyi,
Ambassador van Schreven,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to this special event on LDCs.

This is an important occasion to take stock of the evolution of LDCs in the multilateral trading system since the creation of the WTO 20 years ago.

And of course it is an occasion to look ahead, and consider what more needs to be done.



I am delighted to have UNCTAD's Secretary General Mukhisa Kituyi with us this morning.

Our organizations share a common goal of helping developing countries, and especially the least-developed countries, integrate into the global economy.

And we have taken an important step towards that goal this morning.

Just a few minutes ago we signed a joint declaration between the WTO and UNCTAD.

This declaration reaffirms and strengthens the collaboration of our two secretariats to keep on promoting trade as a tool for development. The text will be available very shortly.

We want to improve the coherence and cooperation in some key areas of work because we are united in our desire to support development.

And of course, LDCs are a vital part of that discussion.


WTO and LDCs

LDC integration into the multilateral trading system is a priority for the WTO — and a priority for me, personally.

In the preamble to our founding agreement, signed in Marrakesh in 1994, members recognised the need for:

“… positive efforts designed to ensure that developing countries, and especially the least developed among them, secure a share in the growth in international trade commensurate with the needs of their economic development.”

So now, after 20 years of the WTO, how have we performed against that mission statement?

I think there are significant areas of progress that we can highlight.

Since 1995, seven LDCs have joined the organization and soon we will welcome another LDC, as the terms of Liberia's membership were agreed just last week.

That will bring the number of LDCs in the WTO to 35 — more than a fifth of our membership.

And increasingly this large, important and growing part of our membership is making its voice heard.

The LDC Group has been very active over the years, gradually enhancing their participation in our different bodies and committees.

This work is supported by a dedicated unit within the Secretariat which serves the LDC Group on a day-to-day basis. 

And of course this support for LDCs is reflected in other areas.  

WTO agreements and decisions adopted over the last 20 years contain flexibilities and special provisions that take the specific needs of LDCs into account.

Against this background, I think it's no coincidence that the integration of LDCs into an open and rules-based trading system has been accompanied by higher trade growth in those countries.

Over the past twenty years, LDCs have experienced higher trade growth compared to the rest of the world.

Between 1995 and 2013, exports of goods and services from LDCs grew by an annual average of 12.6 per cent. 

This is higher than the average growth for developing economies in the same period, which was of 11.3 per cent. And it is significantly higher than the global average of 7.5 per cent.

And so LDCs' share of world trade has also been increasing.

In 1995, LDCs accounted for 0.5 per cent of world exports of goods and services.

Now, that share has more than doubled, reaching 1.17 per cent in 2013.

So this is progress.

But clearly it is not enough.

LDCs account for more than 12 per cent of the world's population, but only for 1.8 per cent of world GDP.

We cannot lose sight of this.

So the WTO has been working hard to bridge these gaps.



Providing practical support to LDCs to help them build capacity and trading skills is a key pillar of our work.

The WTO runs special training programmes suited to the needs of LDCs and LDC officials, so that they can successfully navigate the system.

In fact, LDCs are involved in about 45 per cent of our technical assistance activities each year.

Another way to help improve understanding of the system is the WTO's internship programmes.

These programmes bring LDC officials to Geneva and offer on-the-job training. Many officials who have taken part in these schemes are now representing their countries in different WTO bodies, working for their respective missions and capitals.

And of course, we have the Aid for Trade initiative.

Through a wide range of programmes, Aid for Trade helps developing and least-developed countries improve their trading ability and tackle their infrastructure constraints.

This has had real impact on the ground. Research has found that one dollar invested in Aid for Trade results in nearly 8 dollars of exports from developing countries in general — and in 20 dollars of exports for the poorest countries.

Since the initiative was created, Aid-for-Trade commitments to LDCs have almost doubled, reaching 18 billion dollars in 2013.

Another major capacity building initiative — and one which is dedicated exclusively to LDCs — is the Enhanced Integrated Framework.

Since its creation, the EIF has reached out to over 50 beneficiary countries around the world, helping LDCs leverage trade as a tool for growth.

In July, I was pleased to participate in the launch of the programme's second phase. And this December, the EIF will hold its Pledging Conference for Phase Two in Nairobi — in the margins of our 10th Ministerial Conference.

This will be an important moment in ensuring the success of the EIF’s new phase.

Indeed, as I said at the General Council last week, a successful pledging conference would be a significant outcome of the ministerial conference. So I have strongly urged all existing and potential donors to be ready to lend their support.



In addition to strengthening capacity building support, we must implement the decisions agreed in Bali and ensure that their benefits are delivered — especially for LDCs.

Bali was a milestone in WTO history. And it wouldn’t have happened without the LDCs.

The LDC Group played an absolutely pivotal role in the negotiations.

And the outcomes reflect the role that the LDCs played during the negotiations — particularly in the form of the LDC package that ministers agreed there.

The LDC package includes provisions to improve duty-free quota-free market access for LDC goods, advancing the progress made in Hong Kong in 2005.

And to facilitate the utilization of these preferential schemes by LDCs, ministers adopted for the first-time multilateral guidelines on rules of origin.

Bali also provided a potential boost to LDC services trade, through steps to operationalize the LDC Services Waiver.

To date, 15 members have indicated their intention to offer preferences in sectors and modes of supply of export interest to LDCs. So, again, this is progress — but we need to go further.

Cotton issues were also a part of Bali — and we are now seeing significant engagement. 

I am now working hard, along with the LDC Coordinator and others, to advance each of these Bali decisions.

In addition, of course, Bali brought us the Trade Facilitation Agreement.

Estimates show that it could cut the cost of trade by up to 15 per cent in developing countries. So implementing the TFA could have a big impact for LDCs, which suffer the most from such prohibitive costs.

And the TFA was a real first. It foresees the provision of real, practical support to help in its implementation, including through the TFA Facility.  

Now, the Agreement is pending ratification by members. I'm glad to note that two LDCs — Niger and Lao PDR - have already done so. This is very encouraging, but we need to increase the pace in order that LDCs can start realising the benefits.



So that is a snapshot of the last 20 years and of where we are today.

Much has been accomplished — but there is also no doubt that we are yet to fully deliver on the promises made.

We need to go further, faster, to support the integration of LDCs into the trading system, and to boost their capacity to trade.

We should ask ourselves:

  • How can we do more to support LDCs to trade, and to get the most out of the trading system?
  • What further measures would make the most difference?
  • And what issues can we deliver in the short term?

We all know that there is a major opportunity to tackle some of these questions this year.

In just a few weeks’ time the WTO will hold its 10th Ministerial Conference in Nairobi, where LDCs are a top priority.

I have spoken to the widest possible range of members, in all formats — here in Geneva and in capitals around the world — and I have a clear sense that everyone wants to deliver for LDCs in Nairobi.

But we have our work cut out. There is little time left, and a lot of hard work still to do. 

I hope that we can capitalise on the goodwill towards LDCs and deliver some important outcomes in Nairobi. This means getting some textual proposals on the table as soon as possible, so that detailed negotiations can begin.

I know the LDCs are working hard in that direction — and I want to help this effort in any way I can.

Let’s build on the achievements of the last 20 years, and move forward with real impetus and momentum.

I think that the contributions, ideas and arguments we will hear today will be very important. So let me extend my appreciation to our speakers today.

I wish you a very productive event.

With that, I will give the floor to our friend Mukhisa Kituyi.

Thank you.


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