Research and trends in the global economy indicate that developing countries cannot develop without expanding and deepening their services sectors — spheres of economic activity that range from energy, to telecommunications, to knowledge — and skills-based work like engineering and computer programming.
Services made up 66 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP) in 2011, but only 51 per cent of the GDP of developing nations, according a UNCTAD report.
"In industrialised nations, they accounted for 74 per cent, showing that a major gap must still be closed," it said, adding that in 2012, services exports amounted to $4.4 trillion worldwide, an increase of 1.2 per cent from 2011, a year that had registered a robust 11 per cent growth from the year before. "Just over 30 per cent of such exports came from developing countries."
While these exports have been growing, the dominant position of developed countries in services trade makes it clear that poorer nations must make up ground. But services exports provide resilience too — they were affected less by the global recession, and they recovered more fully from it.
The UNCTAD Global Services Forum that will take place in Beijing, on May 28-29, will discuss on how to boost the services capacities of developing countries and ways to harness the services sector to spur broad-based economic growth that can significantly reduce poverty and enhance inclusiveness of economic progress.
The meeting that will bring together government leaders, including Chinese premier Li Keqiang, and other heads of states will take place concurrently with the second China International Fair for Trade in Services, which runs from May 28 to June 1.
The forum has been organised by UNCTAD in cooperation with the Ministry of Commerce of China and the People’s Government of Beijing Municipality. It also coincides with several other global gatherings that will consider development strategies as the finish date for the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) approaches, added UNCTAD.
UNCTAD, based on its own research and on the results of the MDGs campaign, has been recommending that international efforts to spur economic progress and reduce poverty in poor nations should place greater emphasis on expanding the productive capacities of such countries, that is, the ability of their economies to produce marketable goods and services of greater variety, value and complexity.
Healthy and growing services sectors are vital for expanding productive capacity, and UNCTAD contends that productive improvements are the most effective and durable method for increasing employment and reducing poverty.
The forum’s schedule of events includes the May 29 'Leaders’ Summit', featuring addresses by premier Li Keqiang, by other heads of state, and by UNCTAD secretary general Supachai Panitchpakdi on behalf of UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, who will be sending a written message to the summit.
The high-level debates will be preceded on May 28 by four panel sessions featuring experts from government, the business world, and academia.
The panel sessions will discuss services and job creation; services and value added; the building of supply and export capacity, including by outsourcing services and creating and promoting partnerships, with a focus on creative services.
The aims of the forum are to raise awareness on the importance of services sectors for developing-country economies, and to advance the development agenda as it relates to services.
Another intention is to give experts and government and business leaders the opportunity to strengthen and expand networks of cooperation and knowledge-sharing, as they search for innovative policies, new partnerships and 'best-fit' practices.
In addition, it is expected that a Services Vision Council will be established during the forum. The council will be composed of senior representatives of the private and public sectors, and will meet once a year. It will provide guidance in preparing future forum sessions, and will offer government leaders, business executives, and academics an informal and flexible framework for discussing topical issues relating to services.