|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Landlocked countries join with ‘small and vulnerable economies’
in bid for improved trade access, as Paraguay Meeting Concludes
(Received from a UN Information Officer.)
ASUNCIÓN, PARAGUAY, 10 August -- Trade ministers and high-ranking officials from 31 developing nations handicapped economically by their landlocked condition this afternoon approved a common position on talks leading up to and at the World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial meeting this December, in Hong Kong, China.
Organized by the United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (OHRLLS), and hosted by the Government of Paraguay, the 9-10 August meeting concluded with approval of the “Asunción Platform for the Doha Development Round” (referring to ongoing trade negotiations initiated in Doha, Qatar, in 2001).
Among the planks of the Asunción Platform:
-- The WTO work programme on small and vulnerable economies -- including those of the landlocked developing countries -- should result in comprehensive responses for fuller integration of small and vulnerable economies into the multilateral trading system.
-- Current WTO provisions on “freedom of transit” should be further strengthened and operationalized to improve the access of landlocked developing countries to world markets through their transit neighbours in the most efficient and cost effective manner. Transit services should be further liberalized to encourage competition, and transit rules and regulations should be simplified, harmonized, streamlined and made transparent.
-- “Special and differential treatment” for the landlocked countries among WTO members should go beyond only granting transition periods for implementing new commitments, and more thoroughly recognize needs and priorities, including through provision of technical assistance for capacity-building.
-- Technical assistance is needed to help landlocked economies recover from loss of market share in textiles, following the 31 December 2004 expiration of the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing.
-- Simplified and streamlined accession procedures should be allowed the nine landlocked developing countries that are not yet WTO members.
-- The OHRLLS is requested to enhance coordination and cooperation with the World Bank, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the United Nations Regional Commissions, the WTO and the World Customs Organization, in order to assist landlocked developing countries with implementation of the Asunción Platform.
Similar issues were covered in principle at the landmark United Nations conference on transit transport cooperation among landlocked and transit developing countries, held in Almaty, Kazakhstan, in 2003. But inclusion in WTO agreements would be a decisive step in operationalizing these principles, conference organizers say.
Costly, cumbersome and time-consuming overland shipping across national borders, distance from major world markets and inadequate transport infrastructure add costs to trade transactions of landlocked countries that sometimes exceed the value of the products themselves. Studies show that a landlocked condition slows the economic growth rate of a country by 0.7 per cent, according to the OHRLLS.
At a closing press conference, the president of the meeting, Paraguayan Foreign Minister Madame Leila Rachid, called the meeting “a big success” and emphasized the need for the landlocked developing countries to “work together on the road to Hong Kong”.
United Nations Under-Secretary-General Anwarul Chowdhury, head of the OHRLLS, added that “solidarity of the landlocked developing countries would help them to overcome any obstacles in the WTO negotiations”.
For more information, in Asunción, contact Jose Maria Amarilla, tel.: 595 21 614443, mobile: 595 971 204541, e-mail: email@example.com. In New York, Tim Wall, tel.: 1-212-963-5851, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
* *** *For information media • not an official record