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Speeches, 4/24/2012

Statement by Minister Hautala at the UN Conference on Trade and Development

Statement of Finland
Minister for International Development Ms. Heidi Hautala at the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) XIII General Debate in Qatar, 23 April 2012.

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1. Excellencies; Ladies and Gentlemen; During the last decade or so a number of profound changes have altered the global economic environment. Since Accra 2008 some of these trends have accentuated, partly due to the financial crisis that has shaken the world economy.

2. This Conference is the occasion for us as members to assess and reflect on the role of UNCTAD in this changing economic landscape. It is the time to think about UNCTAD's priorities and work methods in order to respond effectively to these persistent and new economic challenges.

3. I will now highlight a few of the most significant issues that Finland sees important to be taken in to account in the discussions for UNCTAD’s future work.

4. Openness to international trade and investment is one of the key factors behind sustained economic growth. The most important results in poverty reduction during the last decades have been achieved by countries that have managed their integration to the world economy and shared the benefits more evenly. At the same time a number of countries, in particular LDCs and other vulnerable small economies, which have not been able to take full advantage of international trade, are in danger to become trapped in debt and aid dependency. We should try to find solutions such as the Aid for Trade initiative to support these countries.

5. Unfortunately, some of the challenges of the poorest countries face, have not changed much since the creation of UNCTAD in the 60s. These include volatility of commodity prices, low grade of diversification of production and exports as well as low level of value added. In addition to these “traditional” problems we are faced with challenges such as the climate change. It is clear that one of the most important emerging issues in the international policy agenda is how to tackle the transition to an inclusive green economy. Policy decisions in this field will have impact on production costs and competitiveness, which highlight the importance of multilateral solutions together with, but beyond what the markets as such can offer.

6. In addition to the complexity of multilateral trade negotiations and explosion of bilateral and regional free trade agreements trade and investment issues have also become more multidimensional. What I mean is that in trade policy decision-making we must increasingly consider also other policy objectives. For example in the case of raw materials there are issues such illegal logging, impact of bio-fuels, or electronic components produced from minerals originating from conflict zones. Or take rules on intellectual property, there one must consider issues such climate change or access to medicines.

7. We have also witnessed an increasing dispersion of global value chains to different locations. It seems to be more and more difficult to see where most of the economic value added is actually created. Trade policy should not be seen as zero-sum game between them and us, since this difference is becoming impossible to make. National export-import statistics can be even misleading. We need to develop new tools and analysis for the guidance of policy making. Also the difference between services and manufacturing is becoming blurred. The increasing role of services and knowledge intensive production should be paid proper attention in research and technical assistance.

8. According to Finland’s new Development Policy Program sustainable poverty reduction can be only achieved through job creation. Millions of new jobs will be needed for the young, both men and women, who enter the job market each year. This requires mobilization of both domestic and foreign investment on new productive activities. One issue of particular importance in this context is how to better promote women’s employment and opportunities in the job market. This is not only a question of equal opportunity and right to equal pay but also of great economic importance.

9. Reducing inequality is one of the leading principles in our new Development Policy Program. It is important that the benefits created through trade and investment are more equally distributed. We should explore new ways how to support poor countries in developing their taxation systems, for instance: in order to finance social protection schemes.

10. In many of the poorest countries, most of the working population earn their living as self-employed or wage laborers in the informal economy. However, they are not isolated from the global trade, on the contrary, through global value chains we are connected to products and services produced in poor conditions. We should find new ways how to promote decent work and entrepreneurship in the context of open international trade.

11. Different private standards and voluntary certification schemes are becoming more important in international trade and we should pay attention how these can be further developed through public-private partnerships and dialogue. Human rights, transparency, good governance and anti-corruption should be taken better into account in business. I am happy to note that private business is already reacting to these global environmental and social challenges through various corporate social responsibility, CSR, schemes and sustainable and responsible investment.

12. Excellencies; Ladies and Gentlemen; enhancing the role and impact of UNCTAD requires strategic positioning and focusing of its work on key trade and development issues where it has expertise and possibilities to create value added in collaboration with other international organizations.

13. There is a great demand for UNCTAD’s expertise as the UN focal point for trade, investment and related topics particularly by the Least Developed Countries and other poor and vulnerable countries. I would like to, thus, use this opportunity to urge us all to work even harder for reaching a meaningful outcome of the Conference so as to provide the work of UNCTAD sufficient and appropriate guidance for the next four years to come.

14. We should also pay proper attention to the findings of the UN’s Joint Inspection Unit’s recent management and administration review of UNCTAD to improve the organization’s capacities and standing. Finland, as one UNCTAD’s top 10 donors with total funding for the organization of nearly 3.7 million euro between 2007-2011, appreciates in particular the valuable work done by UNCTAD in research and analysis, culminating into a number of flagship publications. These, and the work well done by the Virtual Institute – also identified as state of art and relevant by the Joint Inspection Unit’s review – deserve and must be far better utilized in the capacity building activities carried out by UNCTAD.

15. Excellencies; Ladies and Gentlemen; Finland is fully committed to working together with the Members States and the UNCTAD Secretariat to make the organization, including by applying Results-Based Management practices, truly relevant, focused and optimally delivering development results. I certainly wish that this commitment is there and played out by all – UNCTAD can have a great role to play in achieving the global development goals. Thank you.
 

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Updated 4/24/2012

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