[AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY]
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to welcome you to the second session of the UNCTAD Multi-year Expert Meeting on Transport and Trade Facilitation, which will focus on "Public and Private Partnerships for the Development of Infrastructure to Facilitate Trade and Transport".
Investment in trade and transport facilitation enhances trade competitiveness, which in turn increases trade volumes thereby boosting public revenues. However, many developing and Least Developed Countries do not have the financial resources or institutional and technical capacities to undertake those investments. So, Public Private Partnerships could be the channel for investment towards the construction, operation and maintenance of transport infrastructures, such as roads and ports, and other trade supporting services.
This meeting takes place at a time when policy makers are confronted with a dilemma. On one hand, financial resources are currently scarce because of the economic crisis, which precipitated a collapse in export revenues and foreign investment. Yet on the other hand, investment in transport and trade facilitation infrastructure can generate employment and contribute to demand. Additionally, public investment now will help position countries to be able to benefit from a trade recovery and attract private investment in the future. A shared vision is currently needed between the public and private sectors to promote the development of transport and trade facilitation infrastructure in the long-term.
Trade has a key role to play in any development strategy, and promoting development-friendly trade remains a priority for UNCTAD. As tariffs have declined over the past few decades under multilateral, regional and bi-lateral trade agreements, inefficiencies in moving goods and trading services across international borders still remain one of the key obstacles to international trade. In fact, the value of traded goods in destination markets can be affected more by trade and transport facilitation measures than by tariff reductions. Delays at border crossings and ports due to cumbersome procedures, poor infrastructure or inefficient logistics services add up to a heavy cost burden for business, and can make or break a firm´s participation in globalized production processes.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Looking at your work programme for the next three days, allow me to highlight two issues that I consider particularly important from the policy perspective.
First, as you may know, UNCTAD is actively supporting the Almaty Programme of Action, which addresses the special needs of landlocked developing countries. For land-locked countries, transit transport and trade facilitation is a precondition for access to overseas markets; transit countries, in turn, can benefit from the synergies and economies of scale generated by neighbouring countries´ cargo volumes that pass through its seaports. You will have the opportunity, over the next few days, to look at collaborative approaches between public and private sectors in both land-locked and transit developing countries to address their transport and trade facilitation needs.
A second topic to highlight is the incorporation of the issue of trade facilitation in multilateral, regional or bilateral trade agreements. By their nature, most trade and transit facilitation measures go beyond national borders, and their incorporation in trade agreements is a positive development. For developing countries to maximise the benefits of trade and transit facilitation provisions in negotiated agreements, it is important that stakeholders from both the public and the private sectors are involved in the analysis of national or regional trade facilitation needs. UNCTAD is supporting developing countries and regional organizations in the process of establishing Public Private Partnerships, and their role and institutional setting in this context will be one of the topics of this meeting.
Our aspiration is to find common ground, to share experiences and knowledge, and to identify best practices that benefit all stakeholders: the public and the private sector; the users and the providers of transport and other trade supporting services; the land-locked and the transit developing countries.
I wish you a productive meeting and pledge the full support of UNCTAD in this important endeavour.