* U.N. secretary-general says trade can stimulate recovery
* Trade flows have slumped in economic recession
Geneva: Poor-country exporters need help to overcome the downturn that is expected to cut global trade flows by 10% this year, the head of the United Nations said on Monday.
Opening a conference on aid for trade, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said cross-border commercial flows “had tremendous potential as an engine of sustained economic growth and development.”
“Trade can and must be part of our efforts to stimulate a recovery,” Ban told the meeting at the World Trade Organisation, stressing many countries will need infrastructure upgrades and other support to weather this period of weakened demand.
“Trade openness alone is not sufficient. Countries must first have a competitive production base in order to export,” he said in his prepared remarks.
The Geneva meeting, attended by the heads of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and various regional development lenders, is not expected to yield new promises from major donors such as the US, European Union and Japan.
Instead, government officials, exporting businesses, banks and international lenders will discuss priorities for future investments in poor countries.
The WTO and Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), in a report prepared for the conference, said investing in roads, ports, electrical grids and telecoms networks appeared to be “the most effective way to reignite economic growth and reduce poverty.”
“Aid for trade can have an immediate stimulus effect,” averting the worst consequences of the downturn,“ they said.
Last week, WTO director-general Pascal Lamy circulated a report raising concerns that exporters are struggling to get the loans they need to ship their goods.
“Anecdotal evidence shows that the global market situation remains tense, with increased payment defaults and high costs of credit,” he said, adding that the “fragile” global economy would depress goods trade by 10% this year.