New ideas are needed to fit the changing circumstances of world trade and to ensure that the economic growth spurred by these international exchanges results in benefits that are spread widely, speakers said Monday morning at the start of a two-day meeting on redefining the role of the government in tomorrow’s international trade.
“Innovative, forward-looking approaches and ideas” are needed, said Anabel Gonzalez, Minister of Foreign Trade of Costa Rica, who served as Chair of the session.
The gathering, described as a policy dialogue, is an official pre-conference event of the UNCTAD XIII quadrennial conference that will take place from 21 to 26 April in Doha Qatar. Experts addressing the meeting repeatedly tied their comments to the UNCTAD XIII theme, “development-centred globalization.
Ms. Gonzalez noted that major shifts have occurred in trade patterns in recent years, led by burgeoning “South–South” commerce – that is, trade between developing countries – which she said “is expanding with such speed that it will soon become the mainstream of international trade flows.” Liberalized trade rules, more sophisticated and widespread information and communication technology, advances in transport, and “fluid capital mobility” are also influencing the way trade is carried out, she said. In addition, she said, trade is being affected by “challenges on a global scale – ranging from climate change to the energy resource crunch and food security concerns – that require a paradigm shift in industrial and agricultural production processes.”.
UNCTAD Deputy Secretary-General Draganov, who gave the opening address, said the “rapidly altering landscape of the international economy” requires a re-assessment of the character and role of trade as a source of economic growth. The past assumption that improved market access and intensified links between developing countries and the global economy are sufficient to broadly raise living standards often has not been borne out, he said. Rising income inequality even during periods of strong growth in trade has indicated that “a more inclusive future” requires an approach that links strategies for trade to goals for social and economic equity, he said..
Mr. Draganov told the meeting that attention is needed not just to recent trends in world trade but to the process by which trade strategies are set – “that is, how best the interests and the needs of different sectors of society are brought into the formulation of forward-looking trade policy at the national and international levels.”.
The policy dialogue will proceed through Tuesday afternoon. Panel debates will cover such topics as mapping the challenges for governments, export diversification in the twenty-first century, the government and the business sector in trade policymaking, an inclusive process for trade policymaking and a twenty-first century trade agenda.