Trade and Development Commission, thirteenth session

Statement by Rebeca Grynspan, Secretary-General of UNCTAD

Trade and Development Commission, thirteenth session

21 November 2022

Madam Chair,

Dear friend, Her Excellency Usha Chandnee Dwarka-Canabady, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Mauritius,

I want also to welcome the Rapporteur, Mr. Seçkin Özbek of the Permanent Mission of Türkiye and the Vice-Chairpersons, H.E. Mrs. Maira Macdonal Álvarez (Bolivia), Mr. Devabrata Chakraborty (Bangladesh), Mr. Prasith Suon (Bangladesh), as Vice- Chairpersons of this session.

It is my pleasure to address you, Excellencies and Distinguished Delegates, at the opening of the 13th session of the commission on trade and development.

This is the first session of the Commission since UNCTAD 15, it is therefore particularly important as we thrive to deliver on the Bridgetown Covenant at particularly challenging times.

I have been repeating that the world is in a context of cascading crisis and cascading prices are also cascading inequalities and chronic instability. COVID-19, climate change and the cost-of-living crisis are all increasing poverty and hunger at alarming speed.

Economics is no longer in the driving seat of globalization, geopolitics is.

During this trade and development commission, we will discuss two key topics which are decisive to get the world out of the polycrises that feed each other.

First, we will discuss, as the chairperson has said, the role of trade in a development- led energy transition, and second, we will discuss the important issue of the geography of trade and supply chain reconfiguration, implications for trade, global value chains and maritime transport.

Allow me to say a few things about each subject, starting with the development-led energy transition.

These weeks we have been eagerly following the negotiations at the COP at Sharm El- Sheikh. There, developing countries have made it clear that for the energy transition to be successful, it needs to be fair and for it to be fair, it must have a development perspective.

As the Secretary-General said in his opening of the COP, two weeks ago, and I quote, " Developing countries who did so little to cause the crisis are in the front line of disasters but at the back of the line of support” end of quote.

This is why I must also join the Secretary-General's welcoming of the “Loss and Damage Fund” approved just yesterday at Sharm El-Sheikh which is no doubt a decisive step in the right direction, the direction of climate justice.

Indeed, countries in the global south face specific challenges and opportunities when it comes to the energy transition in particular. They often lack the capital base, the technological know-how and the supply-chain linkages that allow for the development of a robust renewable energy industry.

Despite all of this, developing countries are doing all they can to promote their participation in the global renewable energy market, which is growing at a tremendous speed.

According to our data, the value of trade in renewable energy systems and components has grown four-fold in the last twenty years. During this period the share of developing countries in such trade almost doubled from 23 to 45 percent. While these numbers seem good, caution is needed. With the exception of some large economies, most developing countries are facing a new challenge of commodity dependence in the renewable energy sector.

The global south is rich with the materials that will power the energy transition, be it manganese in the South of Africa, lithium in the Andes or cobalt in the Congo. The problem is that most developing countries who supply these minerals add little value to their exports. For example, 96% of all the lithium batteries in the world are produced in just four countries who mostly import the raw material from abroad.

Trade policy can go a long way in solving these issues. In particular, regional trade agreements can promote regional value chains in the renewable energy industry, supporting a win-win scenario for developing countries of productive diversification and low carbon growth. More solutions like these will be discussed in later during this commission.

Madam Chair, Distinguished Delegates,

Let me now pass to the second topic of the Commission, the new geography of trade and its implications for maritime transport.

Rarely has the importance of maritime logistics for trade and development been more evident than this year. Historically high and volatile freight rates, congestion, closed

ports, and new demands for shipping following COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine have had an immense impact on people's life.

Higher shipping costs have contributed to higher inflation, shortages of food and interruptions of supply chains, all of which are key features of the current crisis.

The geography of international trade has fundamentally changed over the last decades, reflecting wide ranging factors, including long-term improvements in trade facilitation and transport services. The volume of seaborne trade per person, for example, has doubled in the last five decades. Looking at logistical services, we observe that expenditures on inventory holding costs have gone down over the decades, while payments for transport services have increased in line with more ‘just- in-time deliveries, and improved logistics and trade facilitation services.

These trends, however, may be changing and during the Wednesday morning session, you The Commission will discuss if the basic assumptions about ever improving trade logistics still hold in a world dominated by geopolitics.

The future is very uncertain in this regard, but we can always be certain that trade facilitation still has a major role to play in addressing some of the systemic challenges we face in this field.

This is why despite the uncertainty, we at UNCTAD are doubling down in our support for digitalization in trade facilitation, including on port logistics, for example, through the ASYCUDA program, our largest technical assistance program with a focus on the customs administration. So far, ASYCUDA systems have been implemented in over 100 countries and territories around the globe, including 38 LDCs, 34 SIDs and 21 LLDCs.

I am sure our experience of the ASYCUDA program will provide a very interesting perspective to the discussions under this agenda item.

Madam Chair and Distinguished Delegates,

This year we bring many important deliverables for the commission, it simply could not be otherwise.

During this week we will share the deliberations of a grand total of four expert meetings.

We will have the multi-year expert meeting on commodities and development, the multi-year expert meeting on trade services and development, the multi-year expert meeting on the promotion of economic integration and cooperation, and the multi-year expert meeting on transport, trade logistics and trade facilitation.

And we will be presenting two intergovernmental groups of experts reports on competition law and policy and on consumer protection law and policy. This will of discussion research and analysis will support with great substance all the work of this commission.

So, in the current context of crisis, this trade and development commission provides a unique opportunity for Member States and other stakeholders to build consensus,

make a difference and put development back at the center of the international policy agenda for trade, logistics and the energy transition.

I therefore wish you a very productive, engaging and above all impactful meeting ahead.

I thank you.