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UNCTAD advocates macroeconomic, sectorial policies to mitigate trade abuse

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UNCTAD Secretary-General, Mukhisa Kituyi

As many countries isolate themselves from trade agreements that seemingly do not align with their domestic market operations, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has advocated the use of macroeconomic and sectorial policies to mitigate risks that may arise from exposure to multi-lateral ties.

According to UNCTAD, trade alone is not enough to reach economic and social objectives.

It must be accompanied by a set of macroeconomic and sectorial policies that are inclusive and sustainable – and by social programmes designed to bring fairness to those who risk being left behind.

Secretary-General of UNCTAD, Mukhisa Kituyi explained that the solution to the concerns raised by some countries is not less trade – characterised by unilateralism and isolationism – but better trade, fashioned by the principles of inclusivity and equity.

He added that the value of world trade has nearly quintupled over the past 20 years from $5 trillion to about $24 trillion.

Over the same period, trade has proved to be an excellent medium to leverage and promote economic growth, helping lift a billion people around the globe out of extreme and abject poverty.

“But in the last 10 years there has been a significant change in how international integration is perceived by the public and pursued in policymaking.

As new middle classes have emerged in developing countries, middle-class prosperity in developed countries has found itself wavering”, stressing the need for integration and trade growth.

He said: “This makes it even more important for governments to more thoroughly assess the implications of trade integration strategies on their citizens.

They must design appropriate complementary policies to smooth the localised negative effects of economic integration while helping their constituents to benefit from it.

This calls for a more attentive assessment based on research and analysis, both in relation to national policies and international commitments.

“Multilateral rule-making on trade has paid the price for this lack of strategy. The soul searching within the trade community has been intense – ranging from whether the multilateral trading system serves global development to whether it is obsolete or even unfair.

“The failure to reach a meaningful outcome at the ministerial conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Buenos Aires in December 2017 indicates the difficulty of finding common ground through compromise. This is the main reason why trade negotiations are increasingly conducted on a bilateral or, at best, a plurilateral scale”.

Citing an instance within the WTO, he said negotiations are now advancing in a manner that will allow ‘willing countries’ to move forward on specific issues (such as e-commerce, investment facilitations, and issues related to micro, small and medium-sized enterprises) without commitments from non-participating members.


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