Press Releases

    Background Release

                                                                                                                     14 June 2004

    Ministerial Meeting of UN Conference on Trade and Development to Take Place in Sao Paulo 13 – 18 June

    To Focus on Harnessing Power of Trade for Development, Poverty Reduction

    NEW YORK, 11 June (UN Headquarters) -- Harnessing the power of trade for development and poverty reduction will be the focus of the eleventh ministerial meeting of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), to be convened in São Paulo, Brazil, from 13 to 18 June.

    This year’s event will be devoted to an overall theme of "Enhancing coherence between national development strategies and global economic processes towards economic growth and development, particularly of developing countries", dealing specifically with such concerns as improving developing countries’ access to markets and the need to redress past imbalances in the world trading system. The participants of the event will look at an increasingly critical issue in today's interdependent world: the link between the national and international dimensions of trade and development.

    To achieve coherence in that regard, countries need to work towards a multilateral trading system that is “open, equitable, rule-based, predictable and non-discriminatory”, as pledged by the Millennium Declaration of the General Assembly. For developed countries, and for the international community in general, that will mean providing the developing countries with more aid so that they have an equal stake in the trading system. At the same time, coherence means taking account of the differences, both between developed and developing countries and within the developing world itself. The paramount objective of the Conference is, thus, to move these issues forward on the international agenda and create the consensus needed to bridge the gaps.

    Referring to growing interdependence between developed and developing countries, UNCTAD’s Secretary-General Rubens Ricupero said at the opening of the annual session of the organization's Trade and Development Board last October, that while developing countries rely less on developed countries' markets than they did 20 years ago (57 per cent in 2001 versus 69 per cent in 1980), they account for a growing share of those same countries' exports. The global economy is suffering from weak global demand and must be stimulated worldwide -- not just in the United States and Asia. Sustainable expansion of trade and financial flows will also require establishing coherence between the global monetary and trading systems.

    The final documents expected to come out of the meeting will be structured around the four “main pillars” of the São Paulo event: development strategies in a globalizing world economy; building productive capacity and international competitiveness; assuring development gains from the international trading system and trade negotiations; and creating partnerships for development. In addition to those subthemes, the Conference will consider three cross-cutting issues, which go beyond the purely economic dimension to encompass core social and human values that are part and parcel of the Millennium Development Goals -- poverty reduction, women’s contributions and creative industries.

    The Conference will be attended by ministers, representatives of UNCTAD's 192 member States, officials from international, non-governmental and intergovernmental organizations, parliamentarians, academicians, entrepreneurs and the media. It will include a general debate by Member States, meetings of the Committee of the Whole, which will deliberate on the main documents, and plenary interactive sessions on the main issues. There will be a number of side and parallel events above and beyond the intergovernmental debate, including an investors’ fair, technology fair and solidarity market fair. Debates will focus on ways to make trade work for development, bearing in mind the outcomes of the recent summits on Financing for Development and Sustainable Development, with emphasis on improving competitiveness and building capacity in the productive sector.

    The São Paulo Ministerial Meeting will present an excellent opportunity for countries to review efforts to resume global trade negotiations since the stalemate last September at the ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Cancún, Mexico, Mr. Ricupero said in a Headquarters press conference on 27 April. UNCTAD's role in that respect is to help developing countries better understand the main issues on the negotiating agenda, through research, training and meetings. While it was difficult to predict the outcome of the trade negotiations in the WTO, the conditions in "the real world of trade" were much more encouraging now than in the recent past, with the world economy expected to grow by as much as 4.5 per cent this year.

    A central lesson can be drawn from Asia, whose overall success is due largely to its sound and quick economic growth and to the growing importance of intra-Asia trade, Mr. Ricupero has said. Those results show the importance of a development strategy focused on the constant diversification and upgrading of the productive sector. The consequent enhancement of Asia's productive capabilities explains why Asian countries generally had a proactive attitude in trade negotiations. Clearly, the link between those negotiations and building the productive sector should be at the heart of the international economic debate.

    The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development was created in Geneva in 1964 -- exactly 40 years ago -- as the permanent organ of the General Assembly to deal with trade, investment, finance and development issues. UNCTAD's highest governing body, its Ministerial Meeting is held every four years to set the organization's priorities and guidelines for action and debate key economic and development issues.

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