Trade Boosting Development
“The example of the South Koreas, the Brazils, the Mexicos and closer home the recent buoyant trade between Africa and China all point to the pivotal role of trade as an engine of growth, economic transformation and sustainable development,” said Mr Eugene Owusu, the UN Resident Coordinator and the UNDP Resident Representative, at the Workshop on Mainstreaming Trade into National Development Strategies held in Addis Ababa on the 30th of October 2013.
The event, organised by the Government of Ethiopia and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), sought to strengthen the capacity of key Government agencies (including the Ministry of Trade, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development and the Commission of Economic Planning) directly responsible for mainstreaming trade into the national development strategies. The workshop was part of UNCTAD’s project designed to assist six Least Developed Countries (LDCs) – Ethiopia, Lesotho and Senegal in Africa and Laos, Myanmar, and Vanuatu in Asia – to use trade as an instrument to boost development by creating coherence between trade policies and development strategies.
The workshop showcased how trade can be used as an effective tool to attain the national development goals, including sustained growth, employment generation, poverty reduction and structural transformation. It also provided a good platform to discuss ways of integrating trade into Ethiopia’s Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) and incorporate trade into sectoral strategies and action plans.
The newly appointed Secretary-General of the UNCTAD, Mr Mukhisa Kituyi, explained that “Ethiopia has demonstrated to other African countries and the world at large, what can be achieved when a country has a Government with a clear development vision and the determination to overcome some of the persistent challenges that LDCs face. There is no doubt that trade has played a large part in this country’s recent impressive growth performance as it did in many other LDCs.”. The Secretary-General regretted that the impact of trade-led growth on poverty reduction has been less effective in LDCs than other developing countries, noting the varied explanations for the slow rate of poverty reduction in LDCs. One of them is the failure of these countries to adopt an integrated approach to trade policy formulation and trade liberalization.
National ownership of the development plans is critical if a country wants to graduate from the LDC category. According to Mr Owusu who noted, “While seeking to address the exogenous challenges faced by the LDCs, the onus falls on the LDCs themselves. The time has come for the LDCs to pursue bold, creative and smart trading and investment policies to enable them maximise the development benefits of trade.”
His Excellency Yakob Yalla, the Minister of Trade, expressed that Ethiopia is strongly committed to promoting inclusive growth. He stressed that the government aims to sustain the achieved growth by taking full advantage of the global integration, strengthening the domestic market and fostering an economy that will share its wealth with all Ethiopians. He also highlighted the importance of the workshop as lessons of it will be used to both modernise the trade sector in Ethiopia and feed into the development strategies of the country.
Ethiopia’s national trade policy framework and trade strategies were discussed at the workshop to provide an in-depth assessment of the economic and institutional constraints facing Ethiopia in its efforts to turn trade into an engine of growth and poverty reduction. Recommendations on possible measures and options to address these constraints were likewise identified.