Thursday, July 13, 2017

WTO Members reaffirm commitment to Aid for Trade

World Trade Organisation (WTO) members reaffirmed their commitment to the Aid for Trade (AfT) initiative and to the development dimension of the organisation at the closing session of the Aid for Trade Global Review 2017, today.
They underscored, in particular, the important role this exercise plays in helping developing and least developed countries (LDCs) improve their capacities to connect to global markets and lower trade costs.
“There has been a great sense of energy around the Global Review, and this is reflected in the numbers,” WTO director-general Roberto Azevêdo said at the closing session of the three-day event. "Over these 3 days we have seen over 1,500 attendees, 55 sessions and hundreds of pages of analysis," he said, adding that the global trade regime meeting has had a lively and informed debate, looking at the importance of Aid for Trade, and the direction of the initiative in the coming years. "This high level of interest underlines the significance of this work.”
Dedicated to the theme of 'Promoting Trade, Inclusiveness and Connectivity for Sustainable Development', the Global Review provided a platform for high-level discussions on the Aid for Trade initiative, which has made a significant impact in its decade-long existence:
almost $300 billion has been disbursed in Aid for Trade support since 2006; the latest data available from 2015 shows disbursements reached $39.8 billion that year – the highest amount for a single year so far;
Some 146 developing countries have benefitted from this support to date – mainly in Africa and Asia - with 27 per cent of the total going to LDCs.
In his closing remarks, DG Azevêdo stressed the importance of reflecting on what has been achieved so far and asked for the progress to be analysed to make sure that the programme remains relevant to members' needs.
“I see a close synergy and correlation between Aid for Trade and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” he said. "Achieving economic growth is a key objective for both initiatives. In fact, the SDGs call for an increase in Aid for Trade support for developing countries, particularly LDCs. So we must ensure that Aid for Trade continues to deliver more and better – and that we improve our coordination across the international community.”
He also called upon members to look more closely at the range of specific needs of LDCs and to ensure those needs  are being met, while considering the possibility of directing help in specific sectors, such as tourism – only 1 per cent of Aid for Trade support goes directly to that sector, but for many LDCs tourism represents over 10 per cent of GDP.
Looking forward, DG Azevêdo echoed the calls from many members and institutions to mainstream gender issues into the Aid for Trade work.
“I think we should ensure that future work goes further in taking gender perspectives into account,” he said, adding that there is a need to keep momentum in this area.
Members, on the occasion, acknowledged that, in light of the negative narrative surrounding trade, Aid for Trade should be used to tell the positive story about how trade can help countries escape poverty and connect to global value chains. Members also agreed that digital and physical connectivity clearly intertwine and that both are necessary to make countries reap the real benefits of trade.
“LDCs are yet to tap the full potential of international trade and international support is vitally important for them,” UN under-secretary and high representative for the LDCs, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States Fekitamoeloa Katoa 'Utoikamanu said in an earlier plenary session on enhancing connectivity and advancing the SDGs.
Globally, 3.9 billion people, constituting more than half the world’s population, are still offline. Mobile cellular penetration has reached over 70 per cent in LDCs, but mobile broadband penetration stands at just below 20 per cent compared to close to 50 per cent globally and 90 per cent in developed countries.

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