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Poor States need trade more than aid

Poor States need trade more than aid to overcome poverty, speakers tell UN Assembly

Stressing that aid alone will not enable poor countries to achieve economic growth, senior officials from Member States addressing the United Nations General Assembly today called for increased access to global markets.

Grenada's Foreign Minister, Elvin Nimrod, said Caribbean countries face growing unemployment and poverty because of recent World Trade Organization (WTO) rulings which resulted in the removal of certain preferential arrangements. As a direct result, two of the most vital industries to the Caribbean, bananas and sugar, are rapidly declining, sending thousands of people into abject poverty.

"Countries of the Caribbean require more than just aid; for aid alone cannot eradicate poverty," he said. "What Caribbean countries desire most fervently are trading opportunities."

Knowlson Gift, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Trinidad and Tobago, echoed this view. "For the Caribbean region, in particular, challenges remain in the area of trade, where the rapid erosion of tariff preferences for primary commodities such as bananas and sugar, have been extremely prejudicial to the socio-economic development of many CARICOM (Caribbean Community) countries," he said, calling for measures to help the region.

"We have been forced to ask ourselves if a pro-development trading regime is something the international community really wants," said Trevor Walker, Minister of State of Antigua and Barbuda. "Our CARICOM neighbours have been dragged through brutal trade battles, struggling to keep their agricultural sectors alive – namely the banana and sugar industries." He added that a pro-development trading regime "would not amputate the feet of such small vulnerable players and leave them to haemorrhage – and that is exactly what has transpired with our banana and sugar-producing CARICOM neighbours."

Norway's Foreign Minister, Jan Petersen, agreed that international trade is a prerequisite for economic growth and development. "The ongoing WTO negotiations are approaching a crucial crossroads in Hong Kong in December," he said, calling for stepped-up efforts to complete the Doha round in 2006, with a focus on the needs and interests of developing countries.

Seyoum Mesfin, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia, said those that suffer from extreme poverty require the support of the international community to be on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). He called for aligning policies regarding development assistance, debt relief and trade with the realization of the MDGs and voiced appreciation for recent moves "to address the current distortions on international trade including through the elimination of agricultural subsidies."

Enrique Berruga, chairman of Mexico's delegation, recalled that the International Conference on Financing for Development held in Monterrey in 2002 forged a partnership between rich and developing countries. "We reiterate our call to the rest of the economic powers to advance in this direction," he said. "It is crucial that all parties fully comply with their commitments. We cannot allow ourselves to go backwards in this field."

The Secretary of State of Cambodia, Ouch Borith, said that to achieve the MDGs, greater financial inflows through aid, reduced debt servicing and increased current account inflows are critical to bridge the resource gaps and foster growth. He called on all developed countries to achieve the target of 0.7 per cent of gross national product for official development assistance (ODA).

The chairman of Finland's delegation, Kirsti Lintonen, emphasized that corruption undermines both the rule of law and social justice. The exploitation of a position of influence for private benefit erodes democratic foundations and viable economic structures. "I would strongly urge the United Nations and the whole UN system to redouble their efforts to help Member States fight corruption," she said. "It is of essence if we are to reach the MDGs."

Fayssal Mekdad, chairman of the Syrian delegation, said the withdrawal of settlers and Israeli forces from Gaza is undoubtedly a first step, but it is not enough for peace. What is required is the implementation of all UN resolutions, the establishment of an independent Palestinian State, the return of the occupied Golan Heights, and the return of refugees, he said, pledging Syria's readiness to resume the peace process unconditionally.

The Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia And Herzegovina, Adnan Terzic, said one of his country's most important international obligations is cooperation with International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). While acknowledging that the Republika Srpska made substantial progress in this area, he said, "we are discouraged by the fact that the two most wanted war criminals have not yet been brought to justice." He also emphasized the responsibility of Serbia and Montenegro to address the issue.

Alfred Capelle, chairman of the delegation of the Marshall Islands, said when people in most parts of the world talk about nuclear devastation, they tend to think of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. "It seems not very many people are aware that the Marshall Islands experienced the equivalent of 1.6 Hiroshima-sized bombs every day during the 12 years that numerous nuclear weapons were detonated and tested in our country," he said, calling for international support to his country as it seeks to resolve the issue.

Archbishop Celestino Migliore, chairman of the Observer delegation of the Holy See, noted that inter-religious dialogue can enable religious representatives and their constituents engage in discussion on the theological and spiritual tenets of their respective faiths with a view to promoting mutual understanding and respect among all. "This type of dialogue does not appear to be part of the UN Charter and is therefore better left to religious experts and appropriate representatives of religions," he said. "Nevertheless, the United Nations can make a valid and important contribution to inter-faith cooperation for peace and development."

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