His Excellency the Honourable Mr. Manuel María Cáceres, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of Paraguay
Distinguished Ministers and leaders of delegation from the Landlocked Developing Countries
Ladies and gentlemen
It is a great honour for me to join you, Excellencies, this evening for this important gathering on the sidelines of UNCTAD XIII.
In my capacity as High Representative for the LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS, I wish to stress how grateful we are at the United Nations for the commitment and leadership of Paraguay in tirelessly promoting the interests and common agenda of the landlocked developing countries as their coordinator on trade and development matters.
Allow me also to express my sincere congratulations to L ao People’s Democratic Republic which has recently taken over the chairmanship of the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries at the global level.
The fundamental characteristics of landlocked developing countries, such as their remoteness from major international markets, inadequate transport infrastructure, cumbersome customs and border crossing procedures and high transport and trade transaction costs, continue to put your group of countries at the margin of the global economy and at a disadvantage on your development path.
The establishment of a secure and efficient transit transport system, which is the overarching goal of the Almaty Programme of Action, remains therefore critical for landlocked developing countries to be able to reduce transport costs and enhance the competitiveness of their exports on regional and global markets.
It is well established that trade is a powerful engine for economic growth leading to prosperity and higher standards of living. However, according to the most recent data, the group of 31 landlocked developing countries accounts for only about one percent of global merchandise trade. Year after year, evidence has shown that the single biggest obstacle to increasing this share is the very high cost of transport which, for our countries, is a bigger barrier to trade than tariffs.
A crucial opportunity to enhance trade competitiveness for our group of countries is offered by the ongoing Doha Round negotiations on trade facilitation, an area we expect to produce a win-win solution for business, consumers and Governments. For landlocked developing countries, improving the rules under GATT article V – just to mention one of the articles under consideration – is of particular practical urgency. In this forum, Excellencies, your concerted engagement must continue to focus on reaching an agreement with binding rules that ensures improved conditions for transit, harmonized standards and a smoother flow of goods across the borders.
Closely linked to the trade facilitation agenda is the Aid-for-Trade Initiative. A number of model aid-for-trade projects, with strong donor support, have benefited landlocked countries in the Greater Mekong Sub-region and in Southern Africa. These best practices have shown that success depends on creating closer cooperation at the national level among relevant Government authorities in the areas of trade and finance, to be matched at the international and regional levels by closer cooperation among intergovernmental organizations with core responsibilities in these areas and beneficiary Governments.
Demand-driven technical assistance and predictable and additional financial resources should be increasingly targeted to the specific needs of landlocked developing countries to address critical bottlenecks, such as lack of necessary transit transport infrastructure and human capital, design and implementation of trade facilitation measures and expansion of supply side capacities, to take advantage of trading opportunities already at hand and to allow them to help themselves in their efforts to expand their international trading frontiers.
Finally, Excellencies, as we look into the near future, I cannot conclude my remarks without underscoring the importance of the forthcoming ten-year comprehensive review Conference of the Almaty Programme – which the UN General Assembly agreed to convene in 2014. Through an effective and inclusive preparatory process, the Review Conference will offer a critically important and timely opportunity for the landlocked and transit developing countries and their development partners to assess, with unprecedented depth of analytical detail, the implementation of the Almaty Programme, looking in particular at its best practices and areas of weakness.
The objective will be to develop a new, more comprehensive, common action-oriented framework for the next decade, based on scaled-up partnerships among landlocked and transit developing countries with a substantially enhanced support of the development partners, with a view to effectively assist our countries to develop, address emerging issues, efficiently maintain adequate transit transport infrastructure, ensure connectivity through regional strategic trade corridors and lower trade costs, with the main objective to facilitate our integration into a growingly complex and changing world economy.
You can rest assured the United Nations as a whole, and my Office in particular, stands fully behind the landlocked developing countries and will continue to support your efforts toward that worthy and achievable end.