Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs Richard Marles today urged countries not to resort to protectionism in his statement to the thirteenth session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in Qatar.
UNCTAD is meeting at Ministerial-level to identify priorities for the next four years. The UN body aims to provide best-practice policy guidance to developing countries on the links between trade and development, as they respond to the aftermath of the global financial crisis and the current fragility of the global economy.
“Now, more than ever, we must work together to open markets, promote growth and create jobs in developing countries. We cannot resort to protectionism,” Mr Marles said.
This was against a backdrop of a weak global economy and trade volumes well below trend over the next two years, dropping from 5.4 per cent in 2011 to 4 per cent in 2012 before recovering slightly to 5.6 per cent in 20131.
Global unemployment, particularly amongst youth, remains stubbornly high. The ILO estimates the number of unemployed globally has increased by 27 million since 2008.
“We must all work together to get the global economy back on track,” Mr Marles said. “But economic growth alone will not be sufficient to ensure development that is inclusive. Countries that fared best during the global financial crisis were those with social safety nets in place.”
For developing countries the challenges are immense. Australia is making a strong contribution to assist them meet those challenges. In the past five years, Australia has increased its development assistance program. We are now reaching more countries with a program that is better focused and less fragmented. This includes our assistance to Africa where we have been at the forefront of global efforts to address food security,” Mr Marles said.
In his capacity as Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs Mr Marles also met with representatives of small island states at the Conference.
“Small island developing states really do face a unique development challenge with particular difficulties, especially the effects of climate change”.
“The importance of our ongoing, close partnership with Pacific nations cannot be overstated. Maintaining a focus on the region by the key UN body charged with trade and development is in Australia’s foreign and trade policy interests,” Mr Marles said.
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