UNCTAD Secretary-General targets trade barriers and calls for decisions to turn into action

11 September 2017

Reducing barriers to trade and achieving true development for all countries were issues in the spotlight as a major meeting of experts in commerce, investment and policy got underway in Geneva today.

Referencing the global geo-political context, UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi stressed the important role of multilateralism at a time when international trade is focused on "mercantilist self-interest" rather than mutual benefit.

Dr. Kituyi used the opening of UNCTAD's Trade and Development Board (TDB) to give life to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by the entire international community in 2015. The ambitious package of measures, which include the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, form the "defining agenda of our time," he said.

The TDB meets up to three times a year in between the quadrennial editions of the UN Conference on Trade and Development, to deal with urgent policy issues, as well as management and institutional matters.

Mukhisa Kituyi
Mukhisa Kituyi
Secretary-General of UNCTAD

This TDB session, the 64th, is taking stock of the work done since the UNCTAD XIV summit, held in Kenya in July 2016. The "Nairobi Maafikiano" report, adopted by governments there, highlighted the link between regional integration and sustainable development.

"Our approach is balancing agility with prudence," Dr. Kituyi told the TDB. "We have prioritized those elements of the Maafikiano that are the newest, and the most impactful."

The presidency of the TDB rotates among the different regional groups of countries in the United Nations, and Ambassador Tudor Ulianovschi of Moldova took the helm on Monday, succeeding his Ugandan counterpart Ambassador Christopher Onyanga Aparr.

Mr. Ulianovschi highlighted the importance of dialogue and trade to achieve results on the path to the 2030 Agenda.

"We all need to make an effort to make the institutional machinery work to reduce barriers to trade," he said on the sidelines of the event, where he also emphasized his determination to "eliminate" gaps in national legislation when it comes to facilitating trade.

"It is time to take decisions to actions and to results," he said.

Mr. Ulianovschi is charged with guiding the TDB at a time when international trade is centre-stage in geo-politics and at a moment when the implementation of the 2030 Agenda is in focus.

A high-level dialogue during the second day of deliberations on Tuesday will give senior figures the opportunity to exchange experiences on regional economic integration matters through the presentation of best practices. The aim is to help craft practical policy recommendations on how Regional Trade Agreements can promote inclusive and sustainable development and meet emerging challenges, while supporting structural economic transformation.

The TDB also offers an opportunity to review the evolution of the world economy in 2016 and 2017 and analyze the factors that are making this recovery the longest and slowest on record. Delegates will likely demonstrate their concern over the continued slow pace of growth in advanced economies, as well as issues of debt and financial fragility.

The TDB debates will consider recent trends in financial markets and flows and address the vulnerabilities faced by developing countries. Delegates will also address rising inequality as one of the fundamental constraints on faster global economic growth. In addition, they will examine how inequality and financial instability jointly pose structural limits to inclusive growth, and propose a global agenda to address them.