Developing nations must finalise strategic policies: Unctad panel
TRIBUNE NEWS NETWORK
DOHA DEVELOPING countries must set up national strategies and build industrial capacities to better integrate their economies into high valueadded activities in the value chain, according to panelists participating in a discussion at Unctad XIII conference.
During a panel discussion on ‘Reflections on the International Trading System and Inclusive Development’, the speakers comprising of eminent policymakers and experts said that if the developing countries undertook the initiative, it would bolster trade, create jobs, and help the countries reap better income opportunities.
The panelists included Secretary-General of Unctad, the Director- General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), trade ministers, ambassadors to the WTO, officials of several other international agencies and representatives of the private sector.
The discussion was moderated by Deputy Secretary- General of the Commonwealth Secretariat Ransford Smith.
Trade is a necessary but not sufficient condition for achieving inclusive and sustainable development, the speakers emphasised. How, what, and in which sequence countries liberalise their economies, and what policies they implement, matters a great deal in how effectively and broadly the benefits of trade are spread through national populations, they said.
“The multilateral trading system is a precious global public good for all and should be strengthened,” Unctad Secretary-General Supachai Panitchpakdi said He said that the international trading system is becoming multipolar with new players emerging onto the scene and more trade opportunities shifting to the South. “The multilateral trade architecture plays a central role. Currently, there is tension between globalisation and national development agendas,” he said. He therefore called for finding ways to make the two coherent and complementary.
WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy said, “The multilateral trading system is in no need of reform.” He said that although trade structure has changed, the issues debated in the WTO have not changed.
Instead, the relative importance of issues has changed, and each faces domestic political constraints. “The problem is with the domestic constituencies resisting further trade liberalisation, fearing competition,” he said.
A principal difficulty with harnessing trade for development gains is that developing countries are mostly producing raw materials and consuming finished goods, the panelists said. The fundamental problem is how to shift these economies into producing higher-value-added products and how to create muchneeded employment.
“This is not simple and requires strategic policies that support industrial development,” South African Trade Minister Rob Davies said.
“For African countries, enhanced regional integration will help contribute to their trade, domestic capacity building and economic growth,” he added.
Various panelists said developing countries need a balanced and equitable outcome from the Doha Round of trade negotiations. They said it is important that the outcome give high priority to development concerns, such as by improving market access and eliminating trade distortions that affect developing countries. Some developing country products have comparative advantages, they pointed out, but still face high tariffs in some developed countries.