Global trade experts explore potential for growth in South-South collaboration

03 April 2012

Commonwealth Secretariat and UNCTAD host a day-long conference on promoting trade and development between emerging economies and the world’s poorest countries

Leading international trade and development specialists met on Monday, 2 April, at the Commonwealth Secretariat in London to discuss greater opportunities for trade and aid flows among developing economies to promote growth in the world’s poorest and most vulnerable countries.

While the global economic crisis has impacted negatively on developed and traditional donor countries, economies such as Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – known as the BRICS - have shown impressive growth and with it, fresh impetus for engagement with developing countries.

Delegates considered how this ‘South-South’ trade has offered new partnerships and opportunities for poorer countries, including through export market diversification and new investment flows. Emerging economies are becoming vital development partners, opening up vistas for more sustainable and inclusive development.

Yet despite their rapid growth, the BRICS economies – which account for 45 per cent of the global population – are still grappling with their own development challenges ranging from poverty and inequality to building productive capacity and industrialisation.

In her opening address, Deputy Secretary-General Mmasekegoa Masire-Mwamba highlighted the work of the Secretariat and UNCTAD in championing the importance of South-South collaboration through fostering trade and development links and tackling the associated challenges.

“Over the years, both organisations have provided technical support programmes and facilitated exchange of ideas amongst policy-makers and other stakeholders aimed at promoting trade and investment between developing countries.

“The rapidly growing significance of a number of emerging economies against the backdrop of economic slowdown in the advanced economies provides an opportune moment to take a fresh look at the engagement between developing countries,” she said.

Dr Richard Kozul-Wright, UNCTAD Director, Unit on Economic Cooperation Integration Among Developing Countries, stressed the importance of fashioning policies to suit local conditions.

Participants at the high-level policy conference included high commissioners, ambassadors, academics, trade negotiators, trade policy analysts, international development partners, economists, policy advisers, and representatives of think tanks and civil society organisations.

The conference was jointly organised by the Secretariat and UNCTAD, and was addressed by experts from UNCTAD, Cambridge University, the University of London, the University of Nottingham, Overseas Development Institute, the World Trade Organization, the Chinese Embassy, the African Development Bank, the Centre for Policy Dialogue, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and the Commonwealth Secretariat.

Senior diplomats from Brazil, Lesotho and Jamaica provided regional input.

Sessions covered the scope of issues and implications of South-South collaboration, aid for trade, expansion of the exports of the poorest and most vulnerable economies and key issues for a forward looking development agenda.

The conference is a precursor to the UNCTAD XIII, which takes place in Doha, Qatar, from 21 to 26 April under the theme: 'Development-centred globalization: Towards inclusive and sustainable growth and development'. The Secretariat and UNCTAD will be co-hosting a high-level global forum in services trade on 19 April in the wings of UNCTAD XIII.