10 May 10 - Call sounded for trade, financial reforms

Public Symposium Significant reforms are needed to the trade and financial systems to protect the interests of developing countries, speakers said at UNCTAD's second public symposium.

Those taking the floor at UNCTAD's symposium on "Responding to Global Crises: New Development Paths" this afternoon urged that changes be made to the international financial and trade systems to protect the interests of developing countries and prevent future global recessions.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, told an afternoon debate on "Rethinking Global Economic Governance: Towards Trade and Financial Reforms to Support Development" that the trade liberalization of the 1980s and 1990s had resulted in a worsening of the terms of trade for developing countries, in lower prices for the commodities exported by developing countries, and in lower prices for manufactured goods from the South as compared to those of the North.

He and others lamented a "lost moment," when the financial crisis was severe and there appeared to be the political will to change the international financial system. They said the apparent waning of the recession has reduced this impetus for reform.

Speakers went on to contend that the "recovery" now supposedly under way is not very apparent in developing nations, and that prevailing patterns of trade, investment, and technology have not had great impacts on reducing poverty. They called for a much stronger emphasis on economic reforms that could increase employment. "What people want more than anything is jobs," said Jayati Gosh, Professor of Economics and Chairperson of the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning of India.

Falling employment figures during the crisis, along with falling wages and falling social funding, are expanding the gap between the South and the North, said Pedro Páez, President of the Ecuadorian Technical Commission for a New Regional Financial Architecture.

A number of civil society representatives spoke from the floor. A representative of the Third World Network said more is needed to ensure "sustained equitable growth" fuelled by "sustained, predictable funding." One option for supporting such efforts could be a financial transactions tax, she said, maintaining that "upwards of US$ 100 billion per year" might be raised by such a tax and used "to reduce the funding gap in developing countries."

A speaker from the Overseas Development Institute said research showed that least developed countries (LDCs) can benefit from diversification of their economies so that they are less vulnerable to global economic tumult, that astute local governance can ease the immediate impacts of financial crises, and that international focus on the global recession, such as by the G20 group of nations, must consider how "poor countries can have good access to financial flows."

LDCs should have a seat "at the tables where financial management occurs," said a representative of Consumer Unity and Trust Society International (CUTS). He added that LDCs should similarly be represented "where aid architecture occurs."

Other civil society organizations speaking from the floor said development concerns are not sufficiently represented in trade agreements such as that being negotiated under the WTO's Doha Round, and that reforms to the trade agenda were thus proving difficult to achieve; and that governments, in the face of the power accumulated by transnational corporations, have lost the power they had 50 years ago to carry out reforms and direct economic events within their own borders.



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