22 December, 2017 – The world’s poorest landlocked nations need a better deal on trade to reach sustainable development goals

42533-022: Hairatan to Mazar-e-Sharif Railway Project in Afghanistan Airplane prepares to land in Mazar-e-Sharif airport as the train passes by the newly built railway. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) funded a 76-kilometer railway from the Uzbekistan border to Mazar-e-Sharif. @Asian Development Bank

Landlocked developing countries, the world’s poorest states without access to the sea, face significant challenges importing and exporting goods. This is not just due to their remote geographical locations and the vast numbers of miles and hours required to import and export, but also because of poor transport networks and lengthy and cumbersome customs and border controls.

New global networks of trade and transport should be opening up landlocked nations to world markets, yet it takes on average 49 days for landlocked developing countries to import and 41 days to export, almost twice the time taken by neighboring countries.

The cost to export one container from a landlocked developing country has been estimated at US$ 3,444 and US$ 4,344 to import. Comparatively, neighbouring countries face much lower average costs for containers of US$ 1,301 to export and US$ 1,559 to import. This has a significant impact on the types of produce that can be exported products.

The Landlocked Developing Countries Ministerial Meeting that took place last week in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on the margin of the Eleventh WTO Ministerial Conference addressed some of these trade challenges and considered ways in which landlocked developing countries could be integrated into the Multilateral Trading System.

“The time for action is now” said  Ms. Fekitamoela Utoikamanu, Under-Secretary General and High-Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, at the event, adding that the challenges faced by landlocked developing countries hinder their integration in the Multilateral Trading System and calling to overcome these challenges if indeed we wish to honor our words to leave no one behind.

29472-013: Road Network Development in Nepal Delivery driver benefits from the improved and upgraded roads in Nepal. The Road Network Development Project helped build and upgrade 613.5 km of roads linking the hills to the plains, remote villages to schools and hospitals in towns and cities, and small and medium farmers to markets all over Nepal. @Asian Development Bank

The challenge before us is to create a conducive environment in landlocked developing countries for trade development and investment facilitation. If we fail to do so, we will not only fail to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals but we will also leave behind more than 479 million people”. Ministers and senior government officials from landlocked developing countries participating in the meeting echoed Ms. Utoikamanu ‘s message calling to address the high trade costs and supply-side constraints in order to increase their  trade competiveness, improve market access for products and enhance structural transformation and industrialization. They stressed that these landlocked nations must be provided with unfettered access to the nearest port/s for their regular trade transactions through territories of transit neighboring countries without any hindrances.

This concerted call came through a Ministerial Communiqué  which recognized the need to “promote a universal, rules-based, open, non-discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system under the World Trade Organization, including through the conclusion of negotiations under its Doha Development Agenda” to achieve the sustainable Development Goals as stated in Goal 17.10.

While welcoming the entry into force of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, the Communiqué called for continued technical, financial and capacity building to landlocked developing countries on a sustainable basis.

It called also for the constructive cooperation of transit countries for the effective implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement and recognized the importance of development and maintenance of transit transport and ICT infrastructure development for LLDCs’ integration into the global market. The need for comprehensive, coherent and coordinated policies at all levels was highlighted in order to promote foreign direct investment, infrastructure development and logistics.

41121-023: CAREC Transport Corridor 1 (Zhambyl Oblast Section) Investment Program in Kazakhstan Earthworks on the highway, 44 km from Shymkent. About 60% of Kazakh roads require major rehabilitation and proper maintenance. ADB assists Kazakhstan in its road programs – bottlenecks, reforms, design interventions, and foster policy dialogue to improve the country’s logistics chain. @Asian Development Bank

“Improving connectivity is a must but also a substantial investment. Investment which most of the landlocked developing countries are unable to meet within available domestic resources,” Said Ms. Utoikamanu “We must build strong partnerships and leverage much more foreign direct investment, official development assistance and south-south cooperation towards infrastructure development.”  

Ministers also called in their Communiqué for concerted efforts and actions to support the landlocked developing countries efforts to reduce commodity dependence, including through diversification of their export base and enhancing processing of commodities. They also recognized the importance of the services sector in modern economy and as such committed to develop the service sector with a view to addressing supply side constraints.

On Agriculture, the ministers called for continued reforms in the sector including improving market access and eliminating all forms of subsidies.

Ministers also urged the Members of the WTO to take into account the special needs and problems of landlocked developing countries during their accession to the WTO and called for simplified accession process and provision of technical and financial assistance