The challenges and opportunities of world trade for developing countries in this century of economic globalization will be highlighted by the Rio Trade Week, 7-12 June. The programme will also include UNCTAD´s first oil and gas conference in Latin America, bringing together oil industry, financial and government leaders.
The Week, organized by UNCTAD´s Division on International Trade in Goods and Services and Commodities (DITC), comprises a series of events ahead of UNCTAD XI in São Paulo, 13-18 June. It is supported by the Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Economico e Social (BNDES) and Fundacao Getulio Vargas (FGV).
The main themes include ways to secure concrete gains from trade for developing countries, take advantage of opportunities offered by new and dynamic sectors and benefit from both regional and multilateral trade agreements.
UNCTAD XI will focus on "enhancing coherence between national development strategies and global economic processes". Assuring development gains from international trade and trade negotiations is one of four subthemes from which this focus on coherence will be examined.
"The need of the hour is for a trade and development solidarity policy at the multilateral, regional or national level inspired by the priorities adopted in the Millennium Development Goals, especially those relating to poverty reduction", says UNCTAD Secretary-General Rubens Ricupero.
The Week starts on the morning of 7 June with a Colloquium on Assuring Development Gains from Trade. "Achieving meaningful and measurable gains for developing countries is a challenge and an opportunity. It is a challenge because fresh thinking is needed and an opportunity because the benefits of trade can be tremendous", says DITC Director Lakshmi Puri.
UNCTAD estimates that the international trade of developing countries has grown annually by 9% in recent years, but those gains are unevenly distributed across countries. The challenge is urgent. For example, at the end of the Uruguay Round of multilateral trade negotiations, annual income gains of US$ 116 billion were projected by 2005 for developing and transition economies as a group, out of a total US$ 510 billion increase in annual world income. Those gains have not fully materialized.
As the focal point within the UN system for the integrated treatment of trade and development, UNCTAD is committed to a new vision for trade policy and development. At the heart of that vision is assuring gains for developing countries from the international trading system and trade negotiations.
The second event is a Forum on Export Competitiveness and Dynamic Sector, to be held on the afternoon of 7 June. There is no single road map for success, but there are several basic prerequisites to increasing competitiveness and benefiting from dynamic trade sectors. They include the quality of economic and financial governance and the degree of political stability and efficiency of public administration.
The third event is special consultations, by invitation only, with presidents of export-import banks and similar institutions. They will take the first steps toward establishing a network of financing institutions to support the international trade of developing countries. The consultations will take place on the evening of 7 June.
Presidents of Exim banks and others will initial a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to advance towards creating the Network. While UNCTAD will not be a signatory of the MoU, it has encouraged the process and will provide the necessary support for the Network´s creation.
The fourth event is a two-day workshop (7-8 June) on Environmental Requirements and Market Access for Developing Countries. UNCTAD is promoting the creation of a new consultative task force (CTF) to encourage developing-country involvement in consultations before standards are set and to improve information dissemination. It responds to concerns that technical requirements and environmental standards set by the private sector are becoming more stringent, frequent and complex, creating increasing burdens for developing-country exporters.
The CTF is not intended to question the legitimacy of environmental standards and regulations. Instead, it will be a development-focused think tank on environmental and health-related requirements and conduct analysis and policy discussions.
The fifth event, slated for 8 June, is a Forum on Multilateralism and Regionalism. A new interface is emerging where both regional trade agreements and the multilateral system can be complementary and offer benefits that reinforce development. But problems arise because of the underlying asymmetry between partners in size, conditions and capacity. Developing countries would like to secure greater market access while preserving special and differential treatment.
The sixth event is a Forum on Regionalism and South-South Cooperation on 9 June. The forum will discuss the experience of MERCOSUR and India, which signed a preferential trade agreement last January. Their trade was a modest US$ 1.3-1.8 billion in 2002, representing just 1.1% and 1.2%, respectively, of India´s and MERCOSUR´s total trade. However, studies based on 2000-2002 trade flows aimed at identifying complementary products show that the indicative trade potential for MERCOSUR exports to India is as high as US$ 13.6 billion -- almost 16 times the current value of trade -- and that of Indian exports to MERCOSUR, as much as US$ 12.7 billion.
The final UNCTAD event of the Rio Trade Week is a two-day Conference on Managing Risks and Seizing Opportunities for Local Companies in the Oil and Gas Sector (8-9 June). This first UNCTAD conference on oil and gas outside Africa will focus on trade opportunities for local companies in developing countries. It will examine such issues as forming partnerships, obtaining finance for oil and gas sector activities and building a sustainable oil and gas industry.
The seven UNCTAD events described above are complemented by three others. A meeting on Multilateral Trade: Brazil and NAFTA is being organized on 7 June by the American Chamber of Commerce for Brazil. The International Trade Centre (UNCTAD/WTO) will hold an event on Business for Development on 8-9 June and LatinPharma 2004 on 9-12 June.