Mr. Cheick Sidi Diarra
United Nations Under-Secretary-General
and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries,
Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States
Meeting of LLDCs Trade Ministers
on International Trade and Trade Facilitation
28 August 2007
Your Excellency Mr. Davaadorj Tseren, Minister of Trade and Industry of Mongolia
Ambassador Rigoberto Gauto of Paraguay and Coordinator of the LLDCs Group on trade and development issues in Geneva
Mr. Gilbert Houngbo, Assistant Administrator and Regional Director for Africa, UNDP
Your Excellencies the Ministers of the Landlocked Developing Countries,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me start by expressing my deepest appreciation to the Government and people of Mongolia for their generous hospitality and for having so ably organized this meeting on international trade and trade facilitation for the Ministers of the Landlocked Developing Countries.
I would also like to thank our partners in the United Nations Development Programme. Without your steadfast commitment to this particular group of developing countries and your generous contribution, this meeting would not have become reality.
I would also like to congratulate Paraguay, as the Coordinator of the LLDCs Group on trade and development issues, for the tireless work done in the context of the ongoing WTO trade negotiations in Geneva. Under your able leadership, the WTO LLDC-members have engaged more and more effectively in the Doha round negotiations with a view to bringing their special needs and interest to the fore.
I am greatly honoured to join you, the Ministers and delegates from Landlocked Developing Countries, for this meeting, whose deliberations and conclusions will reconfirm the existing strong partnership that makes the LLDC Group so unique. Being here with you for this important meeting has added significance for me, as it is my first official mission since assuming the functions of UN High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States at the beginning of this month. I would like to assure you of my unwavering commitment in carrying out this major responsibility in support of the most vulnerable countries.
The particular development challenges of landlocked developing countries feature particularly high in my agenda as they continue to face great challenges and serious constraints in their efforts to eradicate poverty and elevate the living standards of their populations. Geography for these countries means remoteness and isolation from world markets. It means lack of direct sea-access and thus dependency on the availability of a trade corridor and transit systems.
The way to counterbalance the negative impact of long intercontinental distances is for these countries to make focused efforts to enhance the efficiency of the transit transport systems, in partnership with their transit neighbours and with the support of the international community. The UN Almaty Programme of Action identifies the key to attaining this objective as taking measures to halt and reverse the deterioration of physical infrastructure in landlocked and transit developing countries, while supporting policy and institutional reforms at the national and regional levels to overcome the non-physical barriers that inhibit their external trade growth.
High transport costs, compounded by delays, fees, cumbersome border crossing and customs procedures, and other regulatory constraints constitute the greatest impediment to LLDCs’ trade competitiveness and equitable access to global markets. Since the early nineties, the share of LLDCs’ exports in world trade has remained dismal and substantially unchanged, amounting to a share of less than 1 percent. Among the ten worst performers worldwide in terms of number of days it takes to complete export procedures, nine are landlocked developing countries. The unreliability of transit trade logistics leads to uncertainty and unpredictability for economic operators, which further raises costs and can have a tremendous trade-reducing effect. These facts underscore the urgent need to take concrete action in implementing highly needed trade facilitation measures in landlocked and transit developing countries with a view to remove these deficiencies and simplify the logistics linked to the movement of goods across borders.
A lot can be done at the national level. Customs procedures must be reformed, simplified and harmonized. Investing in IT solutions can bring great benefits in this area. Transparency must be achieved with regard to information pertaining to customs law, such as the official customs formalities, other trade-related legal texts, administrative arrangements and requirements. These national actions are a prerequisite for functional transit transport subregional systems.
The good work at the national level must be matched by effective cooperation across the border. Regional cooperation in trade facilitation will require political will, good governance, improved peace and security, and compliance with agreements reached at the regional and sub-regional levels. The simple establishment of joint border control posts between adjacent countries, with coordinated office hours, is an arrangement that can go a long way in avoiding multiple examinations and reducing the time needed for border crossing procedures. Harmonization at the regional or subregional level of regulations concerning, for example, truck size and weight, insurance, driver’s license and other transit trade documentation should also be swiftly achieved. Adherence to international standards and conventions in the trade facilitation area is also an objective that many landlocked countries should pursue.
At the international level, the ongoing negotiations on trade facilitation in the WTO context offer an unprecedented opportunity for landlocked countries to see their interests in this crucial area being cast into binding commitments. Concerted group action must be the basis of your strategy at the WTO. The relevant GATT articles already contain language on freedom of transit and transparency and simplification of transit trade regulations. Thus, landlocked developing countries must strive to see that freedom of transit is effectively operationalized, national treatment applied to all aspects of transit trade and that a monitoring system is established.
A bold, ambitious outcome of the trade facilitation negotiations should also include binding commitments on developed country members to provide technical assistance and support for capacity building on a priority basis to landlocked developing countries, based on an assessment of individual country needs. The current discussions on the implementation of the enhanced Integrated Framework and the aid for trade agenda also offer a great opportunity to ensure more and better coordinated technical and financial support from the international community to address the trade-related supply-side constraints of landlocked developing countries.
In the area of trade negotiations, the Asuncion Platform provides a powerful common agenda for the Group. Special and differential treatment for the landlocked countries must be sought in all relevant areas under negotiation to guarantee greater flexibilities to pursue those policy options that are most appropriate to accelerate the LLDCs’ integration into the multilateral trading system. This includes: special treatment for the products of particular interest to the LLDCs in terms of industrial and agricultural market access; and simplified and more streamlined procedures for accession to the WTO, whereby the obligations of acceding landlocked developing countries are commensurate to their level of development.
Let me wish you every success in your deliberations during these intense two days of in-depth exchange of views on the equitable participation of LLDCs in international trade.
Let me conclude by assuring you, once again, of the continued support of the Office of the High Representative to your efforts through the full mobilization and coordination of all parts of the United Nations system and other relevant international, regional and subregional organizations towards the effective implementation of the Almaty Programme of Action and the fuller integration of all landlocked developing countries in the international trading system.