Last week, TOP Co-Chair Peter Lilley chaired a keynote and panel discussion on “Trade: Developing Opportunities to Deliver Sustainable Economic Growth” at the International Parliamentary Conference on Growth for Development. The session examined the role of global trade as a vehicle to deliver poverty reduction and equitable growth.
In his keynote address, Petko Draganov – Deputy Secretary General of UNCTAD – urged parliamentarians to build domestic demand to encourage global trade, but also ensure that social policies are put in place so that those most in need can enjoy the benefits. Trade can be an engine of growth, but it needs complementary socio-economic, industrial, technological and investment policies to have a sustainable impact – the benefits are not automatic. He also spoke of the need to build a sustainable trading system if we are to fulfil the post-2015 agenda, emphasising the vital role for parliamentarians in increasing policy coherence to make this happen.
Peter Lilley introduced the panel by highlighting the benefit of simplifying trade rules to increase market access for LDCs. While tariffs have in general decreased dramatically across the world in the last few decades, but the ones that remain are those on agriculture and labour intensive goods – precisely the sectors that LDCs tend to focus on.
Dorothy Tembo – Deputy Executive Director of the International Trade Centre – outlined their work in ensuring that developing countries, and particularly SMEs are able to take advantage of the opportunities that trade presents. She emphasised the importance of value-addition and diversification in helping developing countries increase their participation in global trade.
Frank Matsaert – Chief Executive of Trademark East Africa – identified the opportunities and challenges that his organisation faces in working to facilitate trade in the region. The cost of doing business is vastly increased for landlocked countries with up to 45% of costs made up by transport. Their potential to trade and export is limited by poor infrastructure and delays at borders and ports. He emphasised the huge potential of implementing the Bali Trade Facilitation that would vastly increase physical access to markets by boosting infrastructural investment and creating a supportive policy environment. “If you can reduce the time, you can reduce the cost”.
Dr Erja Askola – Trade Lead in the Directorate-General for Trade of the European Commission – talked about the role of the EU’s Economic Partnership Agreements in helping ACP countries to increase their participation in global trade. She said that the deals have an explicit development object and also aim to support regional integration. She also highlighted the potential of Aid for Trade in increasing technical assistance and capacity building – this is a resource which has been barely tapped so far.
The conference communique gives strong support for the role of trade in poverty reduction: “We recognise the crucial importance of trade as a driver for growth as trade creates opportunities for job creation and improved livelihoods. We urge governments to pursue trade policies that are free, open and fair. Multilateral and multinational agreements are the most effective means to develop trade that does not discriminate and drives equitable and sustainable growth.”
The conference was run by CPA UK, in collaboration with UNDP and World Bank Group. Parliamentarians from 23 countries came together to discuss the role of parliamentarians in managing economic growth for equitable development. More information on the conference and the full communique can be found here