LDC trade ministers welcome renewed cooperation between WTO and UN on LDC trade development

WTO Director-General, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and Mr Sandagdorj Erdenebileg of the UN High Representative for Least-Developed Countries signed a partnership agreement on 11 June in Geneva aimed at strengthening cooperation to boost the participation of least-developed countries in the global trading system. Trade ministers and WTO ambassadors from over 40 LDCs attended the ceremony on the eve of the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12), which begins on 12 June.

DG Okonjo-Iweala said: “On the eve of MC12, we are joining hands with the UN to give renewed hope to the most vulnerable group of countries of the international community — the LDCs. … LDCs have a special place in the multilateral trading system. Over the last decade, our members have provided increased trade opportunities to expand LDC exports and the WTO remains the main forum to achieve the Doha Programme of Action targets in the area of trade.”

Mr Erdenebileg, Chief of Policy Development, Coordination, Monitoring and Reporting Service at the Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS), said: “An improved trading situation for vulnerable countries has the potential to transform millions of lives through better jobs and stronger economies. That is why trade is an essential element of the Doha Programme of Action for LDCs for the decade 2022-2031. With this renewed commitment between the WTO and UN-OHRLLS, the vital trade targets in the new Programme come closer within reach.”

Also speaking at the event, WTO Deputy Director-General Xiangchen Zhang said: “This is a historic moment. We have always worked closely with the United Nations, and today we are bringing our cooperation in support of trade development in LDCs to the next level. Integrating least-developed countries into global trade is our institutional priority. And it is our shared responsibility to make sure that the opportunities offered by the global trading system reach the most vulnerable, those who need them most.”

Mr Ali Djadda Kampard, Trade Minister of Chad and Coordinator of the WTO’s LDC Group, said: “This partnership marks an important milestone as the international community is joining hands to help us boost our participation in global trade. The start of MC12 tomorrow will be a defining moment for the entire membership. That’s why the LDC Group has been actively engaging in the work of the WTO and we remain committed to ensuring results at MC12. A success at MC12 will set us on a right path towards reinvigorating the WTO and realizing our broader development objectives.”

Ms Kadra Ahmed Hassan, Djibouti’s WTO Ambassador, said: “Today, we are opening a new chapter in global cooperation in support of the integration of least-developed countries into the multilateral trading system. By bringing New York closer to Geneva, we are placing trade-led sustainable development at the heart of this joint effort.”

The partnership between the WTO and UN-OHRLLS aims to support LDCs with analysis of the latest trade trends, joint capacity-building activities and joint outreach and awareness-raising efforts for trade‑related technical assistance and capacity‑building activities.

There are at present 46 LDCs on the United Nations list, 35 of which are members of the WTO. Eight LDCs are in the process of joining the WTO. They are Bhutan, Comoros, Ethiopia, Sao Tome and Principe, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Timor-Leste.