unctad.org | Rio+20 Side Event: The trade dimension in the follow-up to the Rio+20 Summit
Statement by Mr. Supachai Panitchpakdi
Rio+20 Side Event: The trade dimension in the follow-up to the Rio+20 Summit
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
19 juin 2012


The Trade Dimension in the Follow-Up to the Rio+20 Summit

Distinguished Ministers,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to welcome you all to our discussion on the trade dimension in the follow-up to the Rio+20 Summit. I am particularly honoured to welcome two Secretary-Generals of the Rio summits: Mr. Maurice Strong, Secretary-General of the 1992 Earth Summit on Environment and Development, and my dear friend, Ambassador Sha Zukang, Secretary-General of Rio+20. Both of them are contributors to the "Road to Rio" magazine we are launching here today, and both of them will inspire and guide us in the challenging road from Rio.

Mr. Sha called me in early 2010 to seek UNCTAD´s support to the UNCSD process, particularly on the issue of the interface between trade, the green economy and development. Today, trade is no longer seen only as a concern in the UNCSD, but also recognized for its potential to open opportunities in the transition to a more balanced, inclusive and development-centered green economy. Trade in green goods and services can be harnessed by developing countries as an engine of growth, job creation and poverty eradication. Although the final text of the Rio+20 Outcome Document is not yet known to us, we are already aware of the key trade-related issues it identifies and we have a good idea of what needs to be done to promote beneficial outcomes from trade in a green global economy.

The significant challenges facing many developing countries that lack the required financial, technological and human capital needed to structurally transform their economies, in a sustainable manner, must be overcome. From a trade perspective, as countries transition to a green economy, they will need to identify entry points to emerging green markets where they can favourably compete with other nations. Better access to technologies and related capabilities are also required to ensure that local industry can meet any additional standards of the green economy. At the same time, there are concerns that the pursuit of a green economy might serve as a pretext for reducing foreign access to markets. International cooperation will thus be essential in responding to these challenges, especially in the areas of capacity building, technology transfer and financial assistance, as well as building international consensus around questions of green protectionism and ways to discourage it.

An important expectation for Rio+20 is that it will catalyse the development and launching of new capacity building activities, enabling developing countries to take advantage of new trade opportunities in the green economy. For our part, UNCTAD will assist countries in the development of national green sectors. Using our Green Product Space Methodology, we have established a new capacity building programme to provide support to developing countries interested in identifying promising new export opportunities for green goods and services within a broader framework of national green economy development strategies.

We are also active in the area of technology-policies. Several of the green economy requirements, such as carbon labeling and border carbon adjustments may have adverse effects on industries in developing countries, as enterprises and organizations may not have the technological means to conform to the new requirements. Developing countries should therefore be assisted through greater access to technologies and related capacity building to be able to cope with the move to the green economy. UNCTAD has been working on many facets of this and will strengthen its ongoing work. Our Technology and Innovation Report 2011 for instance dealt with how renewable energy technologies can, by way of providing critical infrastructure, support the shift in production structures within developing countries, and serve the goals of industrial policy by helping exporters become more competitive, while transitioning to the green economy.

UNCTAD is also supporting countries in their efforts to address trade concerns and potential trade conflicts in their transition to a green economy. In addition to our work in cooperation with the WTO and other relevant institutions in monitoring protectionism - including green protectionism - we will soon establish a forum for international cooperation on trade-related challenges in the green economy. UNCTAD's Global Forum on the Green Economy and Trade will offer an institutional space for experts and economists to engage government officials, to exchange information, and to re-frame the discussions from conflict resolution to conflict prevention, and thereby promote cooperative approaches to policy making.

Through these new initiatives, UNCTAD aims to be a valuable partner for countries seeking to advance their Rio+20 objectives, and in particular their aims to seize new green export opportunities and discourage green protectionism.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are honoured today to have such a distinguished panel share their Rio+20 visions with us. In their interventions, panelists are invited to address two questions:

(i) how national transitions to a green economy can be managed to provide net development gains? And,

(ii) what are the key challenges faced at the national and international levels and how can we best address them?

In their interventions, I would also encourage our panellists to share their views on ways UNCTAD can help to open new trade and sustainable development opportunities, and to provide solutions to the challenges they foresee going forward.

I wish you all a productive discussion and I thank you all for your attention.


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