November 29, 2005, HT Live
New Delhi

To make governance, institutional strengthening and infrastructural development key elements for development and poverty reduction in developing countries, experts felt that emphasis needs to be laid on trade liberalisation and other trade reforms.

Supporting the theme, Cuts international in cooperation with the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINBUZA) organised a Symposium titled ‘Exploring Linkages between Trade, Development and Poverty Reduction,’ in Geneva recently.

Participants included representatives from many European development ministries, developing country WTO missions, UNCTAD, UNDP, World Bank, and academic and civil society organisations from across Africa, Asia and Europe, where the project is being implemented.

Opening the conference, CUTS secretary general, Pradeep S Mehta gave an overview of the project’s objectives – gathering new insights into trade linkages, poverty reduction and communicating these to national and international policy-makers so that trade policy responds to the needs of the poor. Illustrating the project’s importance by quoting from a recent dialogue in China where a participant stated, “we understand the linkages between trade, development and poverty in our country better than they (global policy-makers) do.”

UNCTAD, Division on International Trade in Goods, Services and Commodities, director; Lakshmi Puri said initiatives like it were ‘vital to giving marginalised groups in developing countries a voice to advocate the type of reforms that will empower them to develop secure livelihoods”.

Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Trade, director general, Anders Ahnlid, spoke on the importance of ‘development’ in taking forward Doha round of trade talks.

In the first session, the discussions focussed on how the project can develop synergy with other relevant initiatives taking place in the project countries.

Margaret Chemengich from Kenyan Ministry of Trade said, “Although improvements were made in developing electricity and telecommunications infrastructure, access to this is still prohibitively expensive to many of the poor in Kenya”.

A Uganda-based consultant, Alexander Werth said, a recent study he undertook “found that a wide range of trade related technical assistance (TRTA) projects supported by global donors lack domestic ownership and are directed by a donor led-agenda that is often unresponsive to priorities of the developing countries receiving the support”.

He added “more needs to be done to engage civil society organisations in the debate surrounding the TRTA design interventions so that they respond to the people’s needs at the grassroots level.” World Bank, International Trade Department, senior advisor, Carlos Braga expressed concern that international donors are failing to co-ordinate their TRTA activities with each other and those being undertaken by developing countries. These reforms should be co-ordinated with national development strategies to ensure domestic ownership, he stressed. Sustainable Development policy Institute in Pakistan, assistant Executive president Dr. Abid Suleri, emphasised the need for nations supplying aid to support trade expansion, to respond coherently to these challenges.