Placing Least Developed Countries at the helm of promoting effective trade for development
Key insights from the event titled "The EIF: Championing Change Through Inclusive Trade" held on the side-lines of the Global Review of Aid for Trade at the World Trade Organization in Geneva from 11 to 13 July 2017
Global trade has led to greater economic integration between countries. However, the participation of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in global trade remains very low, accounting for less than 1% of global trade exports. By bringing together a global partnership amongst LDCs, donors, development partners and non-state actors for trade and sustainable development, the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) is committed to shaping trade for development that provides better livelihoods for the world's poorest people.
The EIF facilitated a high-level event during the Global Review of Aid for Trade 2017 at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to bring together trade ministers of the LDCs and heads of delegation of EIF Donor countries to exchange experiences and perspectives on how the EIF supports the LDCs as they face opportunities and challenges that trade offers for development. The event was attended by the Ministers of Bangladesh, The Gambia, Guinea, Lao PDR, Liberia, Madagascar, Myanmar, Samoa, Sweden, Togo and Vanuatu and high-level representatives from the European Union (EU), Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Sweden.
Several participants highlighted the uniqueness of the EIF as the only global multi-partnership programme exclusively dedicated to support the LDCs to use trade as a vehicle for economic growth and poverty reduction. Roberto Azevêdo, Director-General of the WTO, opened the event and emphasized the role of the EIF in the global development agenda. "The EIF helps LDCs to develop the tools, skills and capacity they need to trade. If we get this right, it means supporting these countries to reap the benefits of trade and improve the lives of their citizens. Working across the board, we can ensure that trade becomes an even more powerful tool for LDCs to leverage growth, development and job creation. This is essential to creating a truly inclusive trading system – and to achieving the new Sustainable Development Goals," said Azevêdo.
The LDC Ministers and the EIF Donor representatives called for increased investments to the EIF to ensure that more LDCs benefit from EIF support. Neven Mimica, the European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, formalized a contribution from the EU of €10 million to the EIF, following on the EU pledge made to the EIF at the WTO's Ministerial Conference in Nairobi in December 2015. The WTO Director General announced that an EIF Replenishment Conference would take place in the second half of 2018 to mobilize additional resources to strengthen EIF activities until 2022.
The spirit of the EIF partnership created in 2008 continues to hold: improvements in an LDC trading environment must come from strong ownership by the LDCs themselves. Ministers from Bangladesh, Liberia, The Gambia, Guinea, Lao PDR, Vanuatu, Samoa and Togo expressed their joint objective in the EIF partnership – working towards strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth remains their highest priority.
Axel Addy, Minister for Commerce and Industry of Liberia, underlined how the EIF had supported Liberia in promoting the tourism sector and the programme's assistance to set up a micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprise (MSME) marketplace. He also stressed that many LDCs relied on the EIF for support to become members of the WTO. In the case of Liberia, the EIF had proven to be a very important strategic partner to support the country's accession into the WTO in 2015.
Tuifa’Asisina Misa Lisati Leleisiuao Palemene, Associate Minister of Commerce, Industry and Labour of Samoa, said that the EIF also provided critical support for the LDCs to graduate from LDC status to developing country status. In Samoa, the EIF had helped build policy, institutional and technical capacities to strengthen the country's participation in the international trading system. "The EIF has supported the Trade Sector Support Programme, through which the Women in Business Development Incorporated has been assisted to scale up exports in niche products such as Virgin coconut oil," said the Minister.
Joe Natuman, the Deputy Prime Minister of Vanuatu and Minister for Tourism, Trade, Commerce, Cooperative, Industry and Ni-Vanuatu Business, also spoke on the nature of EIF support. "The EIF has provided technical and financial support that has been catalytic – in the case of Vanuatu, EIF support has been instrumental in leveraging additional sources of financing from the Government of New Zealand to rebuild its vital tourism infrastructure. This has been key in supporting the implementation of the SDGs in Vanuatu, enabling a flourishing tourism sector and support to environmental concerns," Natuman said.
The EIF's support in assisting the LDCs to assess the competitiveness of their economies and to map the way forward for LDC trade was embraced as a key element of the partnership's approach. Khemmani Pholsena, the Minister for Industry and Commerce of Lao PDR, said that Lao PDR had used the analytical work done by the EIF to develop a Trade and Private Sector Development Roadmap, which served not only to map priorities across key sectors but also as the main instrument for Aid for Trade harmonization, resource mobilization and coordination efforts.
Marc Yombouno, Minister of Trade of Guinea, underlined the EIF's role in building up trade‑related and supply-side capacities of the LDCs. He shared the experience in Guinea, where the EIF supported rural women to earn higher wages through mango‑farming and assisted the country in increasing its export of mango production. "The mango sector with EIF support has greatly improved livelihoods of poor communities in Guinea, providing jobs and helping in curbing immigration issues," said the Minister, as he spoke on the economic loss suffered in Guinea due to the Ebola crisis.
The EIF Donors, including representatives from the European Union, Sweden, Germany and the United Kingdom, also emphasized that the strengthening of economic capacity and shared economic growth in the LDCs was instrumental to help reduce poverty and open up new global markets. That effort would require partnership and coordinated actions on two fronts: on the one hand, assistance to strengthen institutional and productive capacities to trade in the LDCs, so that, on the other hand, domestic and foreign investments would have a strong foundation on which to build on.
The EIF was also identified as an important vehicle for donor commitments to channel their support to LDC trade and economic integration within the multilateral context and specifically to support Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 8: Promote Sustained, Inclusive and Sustainable Economic Growth, Full and Productive Employment and Decent Work for All.
Ann Linde, Sweden's Minister for EU Affairs and Trade, spoke on the key elements that would help the EIF to continue to successfully carry out its mandate. "The EIF needs to continue to prioritize country ownership and inclusive and sustainable trade that provides for tangible impacts in LDCs, as well as emphasize the role of gender and women's economic empowerment, which remains a central focus," the Minister said, while she encouraged EIF Donor partners to use the EIF as a coordination mechanism for donor commitments on Aid for Trade. Dominik Ziller, Director‑General of International Development Policy, Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Germany, echoed the call from the Minister of Sweden, saying that Germany saw the EIF as an instrumental platform to ensure support to all the LDCs through a coordinated approach.
Andrew Staines, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom Mission in Geneva, underlined the UK's commitment to support inclusive trade for all the LDCs using coordinated Aid for Trade channels, such as the EIF. He said that the EIF was valued for its evidence‑based approaches, support to all the LDCs and focus on sustainability, which included the EIF's work to build national committees, in‑country capacities and the use of EIF funding as catalytic investments.
Bernadette Essossimna Legzim-Balouki, the Minister of Trade, Private Sector Promotion and Tourism of Togo, said that the EIF's initial support in soybean production had assisted Togo to secure US$250,000 worth of exports in new contracts with the Netherlands and Vietnam. These contracts had strong potential for increased exports in the future. Isatou Touray, the Minister for Trade, Regional Integration and Employment of The Gambia, noted how the EIF had been crucial in enabling SMEs in The Gambia to reduce trade costs and increase exports through a more effective air cargo system. She said that support in capacity‑building and export diversification had also helped to organize the Gambian groundnuts and cashew nuts sectors, ultimately improving quality and standards and yielding better incomes for farmers.
Daniel Blockert, Chair of the EIF Steering Committee and Ambassador of Sweden in Geneva, facilitated the discussion and closed the event by saying that trade‑supported inclusive and sustainable growth in the LDCs would strongly depend on continued reforms by LDC leaders, including integrated national development plans and taking into account rural and urban sectors, social needs and economic capacities.
The event was organized by the Executive Secretariat of the EIF as a series of events leading up to the WTO's Eleventh Ministerial Conference (MC11) taking place in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from 11 to 14 December 2017.