Mainstreaming Trade into National Development Strategies: National Workshop

30 Oct 2013

Mainstreaming Trade into National Development Strategies:

National Workshop

 

Remarks by

Mr Eugene Owusu

UN Resident Coordinator, UNDP Resident Representative,

& UN Humanitarian Coordinator

 

Your Excellency, Kii Buur Ato Kebede Chane, State Minister of Ministry of Trade of Ethiopia

Your Excellency, Kii Buur Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of UNCTAD

Development Partners,

Senior Government Officials,

Representatives from the African Union Commission,

Colleagues from the UN System

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to be here with all of you today for the opening of this national workshop on mainstreaming trade into national development strategies. I wish to take this opportunity to applaud UNCTAD and the Ministry of Trade for organizing this important event.

Allow me, on behalf of the UN Country Team in Ethiopia to congratulate you on your appointment as Secretary General of UNCTAD, and welcome you on your first official visit to Africa as the Secretary-General of UNCTAD and as the son of the soil. Welcome to Addis Ababa, the political capital of Africa. We at the UN Country Team greatly look forward to a solid partnership with UNCTAD under your able leadership.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today’s workshop comes at a crucial time when countries are scaling up efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals or MDGs as they are widely known; these goals were designed to serve as a rallying framework to support the quest to poverty reduction and promote human development.

We are fast approaching the agreed time-frame for meeting the MDG targets which is the year 2015. As we seek to scale up efforts towards achieving the MDGs, one of the key issues that require our close attention is the vital role that trade plays as an enabler for economic growth and poverty reduction.

Over the last three decades we have repeatedly witnessed first-hand the critical role played by trade in transforming developing economies and reducing poverty. The example of the South Koreas, the example of the Brazils, the example of 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, an engine of economic transformation and an engine of sustainable development.

 

The establishment of UNCTAD some 50 years ago was a result of the increasing recognition - by United Nations and the international community - of the critical role of promoting trade for economic growth and development.

As we know, the accumulated experience within UNCTAD is a major asset for assisting developing countries; this is particularly true for the least developed among them, to mainstream trade into their national development strategies.

 

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen

UNCTAD and indeed the UN system more broadly have made commendable contribution to the role of trade in the development process.  But despite the gains within the globalized trading system, significant trade and development challenges still confront the most vulnerable groups of countries which have become known as the LDCs. The challenges are enormous, varied and complex.

We are certainly aware that there is no simple or uniform blueprint for dealing with the essential tasks of accelerating economic growth and economic diversification. Neither do we have ready-made answers to ending the increasing marginalization of these countries from the global economy.

 

But while seeking to address the exogenous challenges faced by LDCs, the onus falls on the LDCs themselves. I would like to emphasise this. But while seeking to address the exogenous challenges faced by LDCs, the onus falls on the LDCs themselves.  The time has come for LDCs to pursue bold, creative and smart trading and investment policies to enable them maximize the development benefit of trade.

 

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is disheartening to acknowledge that since the UN General Assembly came up with the LDC category, at the recommendation of the UNCTAD, the number of countries falling under the unenviable club has actually gone up from 25 to 49. Even more disturbing for us here is that the number of African countries falling in the LDC category has gone up from 16 to 34.

 

Colleagues,

Although the LDC category is not a life sentence, only three countries in Africa – Botswana, Cape Verde, and Mauritius – have since graduated from LDC status. We should note here that in Ethiopia the government is working on an ambitious 15 year development plan to move the country out of the LDC category and into a middle income status by the year 2025.

 

Research and policy analysis by UNCTAD and UNDP among other global bodies indicate that the least developed countries, in particular, have not experienced the social improvements and employment advances that are expected from the high economic growth currently driven by increased trade and investment flows.

 

This has especially been the case in commodity- dependent countries, where growth has not resulted in economic diversification and structural change.

 

Colleagues,

Fostering inclusive globalization is of great interest for us at the UN System and especially at the UNDP and we are actively building partnerships around addressing this issue. For example, we are currently partnering with leading institutions in Africa such as the African Union and Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) to strengthen the capacity of African countries to participate in global trade and intra-link trade policies to poverty reduction.

 

The UNDP-AUC trade project has provided support towards institutionalizing the design and set up of the Africa Regional Integration Trust Fund for financing implementation of the AUC’s Minimum Integration Action Package. In addition to this, we are concluding assistance to selected member states to mainstream trade issues, including Boosting Intra-Africa Trade in their national development plans and strategies.  The ultimate goal of these interventions is to ensure that Africa has the capacity to gain maximum benefits from inclusive globalization and regional integration. We look forward to working very closely with UNCTAD and other partners in this important initiative. 

 

As my colleague before me, I would like to say a word on infrastructure. The role of infrastructure development is crucial in boosting the potential of trade as a key driver of growth and as an enabler of economic transformation.

 

I mentioned earlier, Ethiopia plans to move out of the LDC category in the coming years. In this regard, I am glad to note the impressive progress made by Ethiopia in building both the hard and soft infrastructural capacity needed to boost trade and move forward the economic diversification agenda. Ethiopia has demonstrated that with a bold vision, an ambitious plan and strategy, it is possible to achieve growth and structural transformation and human development.

 

Let me congratulate Ethiopia for achieving these commendable results and let me assure all of you that the UN system in Ethiopia will continue to support the national development agenda anchored in the Growth and Transformation Plan, which defines trade among other categories as an engine for boosting economic growth and poverty reduction.

 

The UN support to Ethiopia is detailed out in the action plan of the UN Development Assistance Framework, or what we call the UNDAF, where we – currently 25 UN agencies, soon 26 UN agencies and hopefully in the near future (with UNCTAD) 27 UN agencies – come together to solidify our support to strengthening national capacities to formulate evidence-based policies and strategies; we come together to build a strong, effective and efficient institutions at all levels; and we come together to improve equity in pursuit of the internationally agreed economic and human development goals.

 

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

As I conclude, allow me to reiterate that the UN country team will maintain its strong commitment and harmonised approach to support Ethiopia’s development aspirations to become a middle-income country by 2025. And here in Ethiopia I challenge the country to return to the recognition of trade as a key strategy for national development; to the days of the Nega-Draas.

 

I would also like to challenge Mr Mukhisa Kituyi, the new Secretary of UNCTAD. For long we have taken Africa to UNCTAD. Under the leadership of you, we look forward to bringing UNCTAD to Africa.

 

Ameseginalew. Thank you.