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The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Development Cooperation presents the conclusions of a round table on “Strengthening the participation of the less developed countries in international trade and regional integration

It should be noted that the regional integration has also been recognized as an important means of boosting the participation of the less developed countries in international trade. A strong call has been made for supporting regional integration efforts, in particular the implementation of the african continental free trade area (AFCFTA), and trade-related environmental policies are on the rise and, while this development is very positive overall, it represents a major challenge for the less developed countries, given their limited capacities.
The urgency of increased support for the sustainable recovery of the less developed countries cannot be overstated; over the years, the world trade organization has taken several actions regarding the trade priorities of the less developed countries. For example, duty-free and quota-free market access, guidelines for simple and transparent rules of origin, flexibilities under the world trade organization agreements and the aid for trade initiative ; the meeting noted that much remains to be done for supporting the efforts of the less developed countries towards their integration into global and regional trade. Beneficial and meaningful participation of the less developed countries requires a productive capacity building, infrastructure development, value addition and trade in value added products. A call was made for complementary trade policies and support at all levels. Emphasis was also placed on the need for modifying trade and financial systems so that they could better support the less developed countries’ efforts in structural transformation; participants urged doubling the share of the less developed countries exports by 2031, as foreseen in the Doha agenda, is a challenge, but possible if the right international support is adopted. The potential of digital trade to drive innovation, integrate the less developed countries into global trade, create jobs and tackle inequalities has been widely recognized, but the flip side is that less developed countries face certain challenges that hinder their participation. In less developed countries, only 27% of the population is online. In addition, the new forms of digital trade protection are emerging, including: a) localization requirements; b) market access limits; c) data privacy requirements; d) infringements of intellectual property, among others. The world trade organization’s joint declaration initiative offers a unique opportunity to engage in shaping the rules of digital trade. However, the 88 members of the joint initiative, only three less developed countries participate; emphasis was placed on building the capacity of small and medium-sized enterprises and women to participate in international trade; the meeting saw that graduating the less developed countries and those that have already graduated are facing the major challenges in terms of preference erosion. Extended support for Science and Technology and unilateral trade preferences should be ensured. There is a need to continue specific support of the less developed countries that have graduated from the less developed countries status for a period of time and phase it out thereafter.
As of march, 7, 2023, H.E. Mr. Évariste Ndayishimiye, the President of the Republic of Burundi, and H.E. Mrs. Sheikh Hasina, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh co-chaired a round table on “strengthening the participation of the less developed countries (LDCs) in international trade and integration conference in the framework of the fifth United Nations Conference on the less developed countries held at Doha. The round table was composed of representatives of Member States, academia, the United Nations, regional organizations and civil society. The round table also benefited from the substantial contributions of participants in the interactive debate.
Among the conclusions drawn from this round table and which were presented by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Development Cooperation, His Excellency Mr. Albert SHINGIRO, it was shown that the less developed countries, which are today more marginalized in world trade than when the category was established 50 years ago. Together, the less developed countries account for barely 1% of world trade and their exports tend to be heavily concentrated in a few commodities; the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the impact of the current geopolitical situation has further marginalized less developed countries in international trade.


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