Trade ministers from landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) are meeting on 12 September 2012 in Almaty, Kazakhstan, to discuss how the trade potential of LLDCs can be enhanced and to articulate a common position on current key trade issues.
This is their fourth meeting since 2005.
The objective of the meeting, which is hosted by the Government of Kazakhstan and the United Nations Office for Least-developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS), is to prepare for the Ten-Year Review Conference of the Almaty Programme which will be held in 2014.
LLDCs’ lack of territorial access to the sea and comparative isolation from world markets has contributed to higher than average transportation costs and low participation in international trade. Launched in 2003, the Almaty Programme calls for fast-tracked WTO accession for LLDCs, enhanced access to all markets, assistance on trade facilitation, and improved trade and transport facilitation. LLDC ministers will review progress made by their countries in participating in the international trading system since the adoption of the Almaty Programme. They will highlight major achievements and constraints met by their countries. A ministerial declaration is expected to be issued after the meeting.
Immediately after the ministerial meeting, a High Level Global Thematic Meeting on International Trade, Trade Facilitation and Aid for Trade will take place from 13 to 14 September 2012 in Almaty. The main objective is to discuss some of the fundamental trade-related issues of importance to LLDCs, such as enhanced market access for LLDC exports, diversification and increased competitiveness of LLDC export products, increased flows of foreign direct investment, WTO accession, improved trade facilitation and transit mechanisms, and Aid for Trade.
WTO Deputy Director-General Rugwabiza is participating in both events. She will bring the WTO’s perspective on LLDC issues, particularly on matters related to trade facilitation, Aid for Trade and WTO accession issues. In her speech on 12 September, she notes that ‘geography matters for trade’ and that when it comes to exporting goods to overseas markets, landlocked countries are at an inherent disadvantage compared with coastal states as their exports must pass through neighbouring countries simply to reach the nearest port. She further notes that the trade facilitation negotiations at the WTO are a win-win and that a multilateral agreement would bring tremendous dividends to the multilateral system, especially to the LLDCs. She also recognizes the need for the LLDCs to reject protectionism, seeing this as “potentially aggravating an already perilous global trade reality”. The importance of accession to the WTO and the role that Aid for Trade could play in supporting the developmental priorities of LLDCs are also highlighted by the DDG.
The LLDCs are Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Republic of Lao, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Moldova, Republic of Mongolia, Nepal, Niger, Paraguay, Rwanda, Swaziland, Tajikistan, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Uzbekistan, Zambia and Zimbabwe.