Second LDC Trade Ministers' Meeting
Dhaka, Bangladesh, 31st May - 2nd June 2003




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Third UN Conference on the LDCs, Brussels



Second LDC Trade Ministers' Meeting - Dhaka, Bangladesh 31 May to 2 June 2003

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November 2001
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LDC Trade Ministers' Meeting - Zanzibar
22 - 24 July 2001

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LDC trade ministers meet begins in city tomorrow

   DHAKA, May 30 (BSS) - The three-day meeting of the LDC trade ministers begins here tomorrow in which at least 30 countries will be represented by their commerce ministers or with people having the ministerial status.

In all, delegations from 38 of the 49 LDC group are coming to Dhaka on this occasion. In the first two days of the meeting, discussions on a common strategy and adoption of an agenda of action will be held at the senior official level.

The trade ministers will join on the 3rd day to give their presence in the final adoption of the common strategy which may come out in the form of `Dhaka Declaration', according to Commerce Minister Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury.

The meeting, the second of its kind by LDCs trade ministers prior to the fifth WTO ministerial meeting in Cancun in September this year, is going to be a big event for Bangladesh.

"We feel proud of hosting the LDC trade ministers," said the commerce minister commenting on the issue.

The first LDC trade ministers meeting took place in Zanjibar in Tanjania in July, 2001 before the fourth WTO ministerial in Doha in Qatar.

The Bangladesh government has taken all out preparation to make the event a success and the stay of the guests in the Bangladesh capital comfortable.

A 27-member national committee with the commerce minister in the chair, is supervising the holding of the meeting. Mayor of Dhaka Sadeq Hossain Khoka, MP, is also in the committee.

Two other sub-committees are also looking into accommodation, reception and cultural activities which will be organized on this event.

Issues to dominate the LDC trade ministers meeting here include duty free and quota access with flexible and simplified rule of origin, moratorium on further liberalization of tariff by LDCs, no application of anti-dumping and countervailing provision against LDCs, violations of WTO rules by rich countries harming the interest of LDCs.

Issues like treaty on intellectual property rights, health, environment and free movement of labour will also dominate the trade ministers meeting, said the source.

Trade ministers from LDCs meet today
Free access of goods high on agenda

Staff Correspondent

Trade ministers and officials from 38 least developed countries (LDCs) begin a three-day meeting in Dhaka today to set common agenda in the run-up to the WTO ministerial meeting in Mexico in September.

Among the LDCs, 23 are represented by their ministers to make it their largest such gathering in 10 years, officials said. Prime Minister Khaleda Zia will address the closing session of the meeting that will make a "Dhaka Declaration".

Market-related issues such as duty- and quota-free access of goods from the LDCs to developed countries will figure high on the agenda at the meeting, beginning at 9.00am at Sonargaon Hotel.

"The meeting is expected to forge a common position of LDCs on the WTO (World Trade Organisation) issues and international trades," Commerce Minister Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury told The Daily Star.

The LDCs will call for lifting of restrictions on temporary movement of 'natural persons', moratorium on imposition of anti-dumping and countervailing duties on products from the LDCs by developed countries.

The meeting's draft declaration demands fair share in international trade and duty- and quota-free access of LDC products to developed countries. The Bangladesh mission in Geneva sent copies of the draft declaration to all LDCs.

The declaration may demand implementation of the special and deferential treatment on LDC products, as pledged by WTO ministerial meetings, official sources hinted.

Bangladesh is the coordinator of the LDC grouping. The United Nations designates 49 countries as least-developed, most of them in Africa. The criteria include gross domestic product of less than 900 dollars per capita, weak health and educational assets and high economic vulnerability.

"It is a very, very difficult job to integrate the LDCs in the multilateral trading system as different countries are at different stages of development," the news agency AFP quoted the commerce minister as saying.

"Many proposals are there and being discussed and Bangladesh, as the coordinator, will be trying to take the agenda forward," he said.

Quoting a ministry official AFP added, "The market is the most conspicuous issue along with capacity building and anti-dumping matters that have to be hammered out if the LDCs want an edge at the Cancun (in Mexico) meeting."

"The other issue is the inclusion of countries like Cambodia, Nepal and Bhutan in the WTO."

"We need market access more than anything else, as the more the trade, the less the dependence on foreign aid... the motto now is trade, not aid," he said.

"Bangladesh's garment industry flourished just because of quota-free access to the United States and Europe... it helped empower women and bring in huge foreign exchange."

Capacity building is aimed at setting up institutions to train people in the LDCs to check "brain drain", the official said.

"This is essential as governments lose hard-earned foreign exchange by sending people abroad for training or study, but on return many quit for a better position elsewhere," he said.

"We have both skilled and unskilled manpower and we want to reduce unemployment in the LDCs," he said.

"The LDCs are looking forward to developing their industrial sector and socio-economic conditions and in a society where the rich come to the aid of the poor, the developed countries also have to look at the whole trading arrangement with such a view," he said.

3-day LDC Trade Ministers meet begins in city today
Dhaka to pursue hard line strategy

Staff Reporter

The second LDC  Trade Ministers’ Conference, convened to devise a common stand for pursuing the case of least developed countries at the upcoming WTO Ministerial Meeting at Cancun in Mexico, begins in the city today.

The first meeting of the LDC Trade Ministers was held in Tanzania in July 2001, ahead of the fourth WTO Ministerial Meeting in Qatar in the same year.

Besides hammering out a unified strategy, top officials of the participating countries will work for two days on finalising a draft of the outcome of the meet to be named as "Dhaka Declaration". The three-day meet will conclude on Monday with the adoption of the Dhaka Declaration.

Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia is expected to inaugurate the concluding day of the Ministerial meeting on Monday. Commerce Minister Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury will open today's official level meeting, conference sources said.

Duty and quota-free market access, increase of special and differential trade preference and simplification of Rules of Origin will be high on agenda of the conference. Besides, introduction of special GSP facility, assistance for capacity building and removal of non-tariff barriers being imposed on the LDCs by their ‘giants’ WTO partners will get special focus in the meeting. Bangladesh is hosting the meet as the WTO affairs coordinator of the LDCs. 

Free movement of labour from the LDCs to the developed countries, like other three components of production, at least for a limited period, will be sought by the delegates in the meeting.

Thirty-eight countries have so far confirmed their participation in the Dhaka meeting. Out of 49 LDC countries, Trade Ministers from 23 countries are expected to lead their respective teams. Some 18 ministers have already arrived in the city till last night.

The Dhaka meet is expected to facilitate the entry of Nepal and Bhutan to the WTO. The two LDC partners include the 19 non-members of the WTO.

UNB adds: Bangladesh will pursue a "hard line" strategy in the Dhaka meet of LDC Trade Ministers, Commerce Minister Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury said yesterday.

"There is no other way for the survival of the LDCs," the Commerce Minister told the agency at his office explaining the talking points set for the Dhaka meet.

"Most of the issues are of common interest," he said, expecting the other, LDCs to agree with the causes. He said Bangladesh would try to overcome any differences of opinion by LDC ministers at the meet.

The Club of 49 poorer economies will also discuss, among themselves, how to press the developed nations to remove roadblocks to 'temporary movement of natural persons' from the least developed countries (LDCs).

The Commerce Minister said the developed countries have already entered into all spheres of services. If they allow only 3 per cent of their required manpower from the LDCs, the economic impact would be much higher than expected from trade liberalisation.

To remove the developed countries concern over a possible "cultural shock" due to free movement of labour, Amir Khosru said LDCs would propose temporary movement – may be for 3 or 5 years.

International trade-related organisations, including WTO and UNCTAD, will also have representations in the meet.

The 'Dhaka Declaration' of LDCs will provide inputs for the September 10-14 Fifth Ministerial Conference of World Trade Organisation in Cancun, Mexico.

Among other things, the LDC trade ministers will urge the developed countries not to apply anti-dumping clause against LDC exports.

They will call upon the rich nations for more technical and financial assistance for product diversification, human resources development, trade related capacity building, and incentives for technology transfer, the agency concludes.

Meanwhile, some political and non-governmental organisations yesterday blasted the discriminatory regulations of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) through series of programmes as part of global demonstration seeking due share of the working class within the organisation.

The speakers in the demonstration programmes in the city while strongly protesting the uneven approach of the stronger members of the world trade body toward their weaker partners, urged the leaders of the Least Developed Countries converged in the city for a ministerial conference to adopt a resolution demanding protection of the workers from the onslaught of the globalisation process.

Left Democratic Front, Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB) and Fair Trade Alliance held separate protest meetings at Muktangan.

Front leaders Nirmal Sen, Shahidullah Chowdhury, AFM Mahbubul Huq, Bazlur Rashid Firoz, Kamrul Ahsan, Kazi Sajjad spoke at the meeting. Top front leaders Rashed Khan Menon and Mujahidul Islam Selim were present at the meeting and in the protest demonstration that followed. Coordinator of the front Tafazzal Hossain presided over the meeting.

They called upon the leaders of the LDC countries to be united in projecting the case of the poor countries at the WTO meetings. They also urged the government of Bangladesh to play a pioneering role in this regard as the spokesperson of the LDCs. 

The CPB meeting was addressed by its General Secretary Mujahidul Islam Selim, central committee member Ruhin Hossain Prince, Mahbub Alam, Ahsan Habib Lablu, Kulsum Begum and student leader Baki Billah. It was presided over by Presidium member Shahidullah Chowdhury. 

After the protest meetings, the left front and CPB jointly brought out a huge procession which dispersed in front of the CPB central office.

Fair Trade Alliance, an NGO, also brought out a colourful procession from the Muktangon. 

Meanwhile, a coalition of nine NGOs at a press conference in the city said due to lack of quota protection for garment export, about 15 lakh garment workers of Bangladesh will be out of employment with the phasing out of the Multi Fibre Agreement in 2005 (MFA) under the arrangement of the WTO 

Besides, a conspiracy was going on to hand over the achievements of the farmers of the poor countries to the multinationals in the name of patent rights. The coalition will hold discussion, exhibition of medicinal plants and cultural show at Central Shaheed Minar today. It will hold a national conference and read out the manifesto at LGED auditorium tomorrow and bring out a procession from in front of the National Museum.

Bangladesh National Council (BNC) of Textile Garments Leather Workers in another press conference in the city demanded relaxation of the Rules of Origin for Bangladesh products and urged the government to include representatives of the organisation in the National Task Force formed to devise a strategy for the post-MFA era.

Action aid Bangladesh, Consumers International and South Asia Watch on Trade will hold a briefing on Making rules of World Trade serve the interests of the developing world at the Jatiya Press Club from 3 to 4.30 pm today.

Institute for Environment and Development Studies-IEDS will put up banners and hold a rally near the conference venue of the LDC leaders today. The organisation drafted an open letter addressed to the leaders participating in the LDC conference here.

LDCs need to consolidate trade gains in next WTO ministerial

DHAKA, May 30 (BSS) - The two-day international civil society forum ended here today with adoption of a declaration for the LDCs trade ministers to make all out efforts in the upcoming fifth WTO ministerial to consolidate gains on all trade and non- trade issues.

The Dhaka civil society declaration, a 12-point document worked out in the backdrop of the second LDCs trade ministers meeting here from May 31 to June 2, appears highly critical of the WTO's performance.

The declaration will be handed over to LDCs trade ministers to voice public concerns of the least developed and developing countries in the WTO Cancun conference asking developed countries to fulfil their obligations.

Participants in the Dhaka civil society forum from 16 countries in their joint statement released here this evening has called upon the LDCs trade ministers to work resolutely to make sure the implementation of those commitments.

They made those commitments in the WTO Doha declaration and in previous ministerial meetings, said the declaration. It dealt with the major issues covering broader aspects of trade access, support to agriculture, intellectual property rights, health and service sectors, movement of labour, environmental issues and technical and capacity building issues.

Prof Rehman Sobhan, chairman of the Center for Policy Dialogue presided over the concluding session of the two-day meet that ended with the adoption of the declaration. Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya coordinated discussion on the floor where representatives of four other host organisations were also present.

The declaration reaffirmed the demand of the LDcs for duty free and quota free access of goods with relaxed and simplified rule of origin. It also demanded immediate moratorium on anti- dumping and countervailing duties against the LDCs. They should also get special and differential treatment in case of their exportable taking into account the country specific situation and the level of their development.

There is also a critical need for equitable trading order for the development of the LDCs and for that transparency and democratic outlook is also required in the international agencies, not only in the LDCs, the declaration said. It also called for binding obligation on the part of developed countries to provide necessary technical and financial assistance to LDCs to enable them to build their capacity and meet special standardization requirement.

Barriers to exports to rich nations must go
Dhaka declaration of Civil Society

Staff Reporter

Leaders of global civil society yesterday called for removing the stumbling blocks in the way of exports by LDCs to the developed world.

An equitable trading order in the interest of smaller economies would remain elusive if democratic and transparent system did not exist within the ambit of the WTO.

Least developed countries (LDCs) will hardly reap the benefits from duty free and quota free market access because of the presence of a set of non-tariff barriers including stringent rules of origin, anti-dumping, countervailing duties and compliance issues, stakeholders observed while wrapping up the two-day brainstorming session in the city, adopting the Dhaka Declaration of Global Civil Society.

The outstanding implementation issues in favour of LDCs should be resolved at the Cancun Conference, they told the Forum.

The Declaration, to be placed unofficially to the Dhaka LDC Ministerial meeting tomorrow, sought more commitments in the upcoming Fifth World Trade Organisation to be held in September this year to allow temporary migration so that unskilled labour forces could get jobs in the developed nations.

The 3-page Declaration also stressed on making the Special and Differential Treatment in favour of LDCs more effective and enforceable in the WTO.

Executive Chairman of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Prof Rehman Sobhan chaired the closing session, while it was addressed, among others, by Policy Advisor of Oxfam International, Oxford UK Ruth Mayne, Regional Director of Consumer International, Malaysia Dr S. Sothi Rachagan, Head of Secretariat of EU-LDC Network, Netherland Max van Der Sleen, Executive Director of SAWTEE, Nepal Ratnakar Adhikari, Representative of SEATINI Dr Chandra Kant Patel, Project Coordinator of Asia Trade Initiative of UNDP Murray Gibbs and Executive Director of CPD Dr Debapriya Bhattachriya.

CPD, along with Consumers International, EU-LDC Network, Oxfam International, South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment and Southern and Eastern African Trade Information and Negotiations Institute organised the Forum.

According to the Declaration, the Civil Society Forum considers that the 5th Ministerial Conference represents an opportunity for LDCs to consolidate within the WTO framework, the commitments that have been made in their favour by the international community in the Doha Declaration and previous WTO decisions. The Conference also should serve to set out in more precise terms the elements of an outcome to the negotiations that would commensurate with the trade interests of LDCs and their economic and human development.

The Declaration says these are the priorities for Cancun for LDCs as seen by the International Civil Society Forum. They are set out in greater detail in the following Declaration, in which the Forum also advocates LDCs support for most of the general objectives of developing countries at Cancun.

Favouring a framework agreement on SDT, it says the burden of the single undertaking on LDCs can only be reduced by it. Their commitment to any future single undertaking should be conditional upon the full incorporation of SDT into the WTO. The SDT framework agreement should establish that the implementation of obligations, would be modulated according to the level of development of each country and reviewed periodically, taking into account not only per capita GNP, and exports, but also human development indices and goals. LDCs should thus not be required to accept additional commitments nor enter into negotiations aimed at establishing obligations in new issues.

Duty free and quota free access is not enough. It must be complemented by improved and simplified rules of origin that take into account the industrial weakness and technological backwardness of LDCs and their difficulty in adding value so that LDCs exports will actually benefit from these preferences, said the Declaration adding that there should be an immediate moratorium from Cancun onward, on antidumping, safeguard, and countervailing duties against import from LDCs.

There should also be binding obligations to provide LDCs with the necessary measures, including technical and financial assistance, to enable them to overcome difficulties in meeting SPS requirements, it said.

Free access to markets will not be meaningful for LDCs, if they are required to compete with the treasuries of the richest countries. Export subsidies, including export credits, on agricultural products which compete with those produced by LDCs, should be eliminated as a matter of priority, at the latest by the Ministerial Conference. Domestic subsidies which result in such products entering world markets at dumped prices should also be eliminated, according to the Declaration.

About temporary migration, it says that LDCs should also have the opportunity to participate in world trade in services. "This requires more commitments in their favour with respect to movement of natural persons (MNP) and temporary migration." The current structure of GATS commitments penalizes people with lower skills and incomes which exacerbates inequalities between countries and within countries. Without expanded commitments in these categories, LDCs will stand to gain nothing from the GATS negotiations. Commitments on MNP should be complemented by the ratification by all governments of the UN Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and the Members of their Families.

LDCs must also be enabled to compete. This would require the effective application of the access to technology provisions of Article IV of GATS, as well as operationalisation of the technology transfer provisions of Article 66 of the TRIPSs Agreement, and paragraph 7 of the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health, through the providing monetary incentives to the suppliers of technology.

The Forum considers that LDCs have derived no benefit from TRIPS. The scheduled review of TRIPS should consider the appropriateness of keeping TRIPS in the WTO or its substantive revision.

Acceding LDCs should be allowed to accede to the WTO under conditions no less favourable than those available to the existing LDC members. The accession process should be made less difficult, the Declaration felt.

The Forum recognises that an equitable trading order is critical for the development of LDCs. However, the benefits of an equitable trading order cannot be realised without the institution in the international trading system and in LDCs of a democratic and participation system that is transparent and accountable.

The Forum urges the Governments of LDCs to institute democratic systems that are inclusive, transparent and accountable. We urge the Governments to institute good governance and fight against corruption.



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