Closing Remarks - Regional Preparatory Meeting of Asian and European landlocked developing and transit countries for the Mid-term Review of the Almaty

Mr. Chairperson,
Distinguished participants,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for me to address you for this meeting of experts from both Asia and Europe who have been discussing the implementation issues for the Almaty Programme of Action. And it is a great joy to welcome Mr. Cheikh Sidi Diarra, Under-Secretary-General, Special Adviser on Africa and High Representative for the LDCs, LLDCs, and Small Island Developing States. His Office and the Economic Commission for Europe and ESCAP jointly organized this meeting with the common goal of accelerating economic and social progress in countries with special needs.

As this meeting comes to its close, I would like to express my appreciation for the hard work done by the organizers as well as member governments representing both landlocked and transit countries as well as development partners.

The Almaty Programme of Action is aimed at forging a global partnership to address the marginalization of landlocked developing countries in a focused, but holistic way. Lack of adequate infrastructure, cumbersome customs procedures, lack of a consistent transit transport framework and limited market access and trade opportunities are issues of
highest concern for landlocked countries. The Almaty Programme of Action seeks to tackle them.

This programme has a human face. I can see human faces behind this programme. I can see a farmer struggling to reach markets because of poor infrastructure. I can see a woman home-based worker whose existence is at risk because her merchandise is delayed in customs and because she has to invest precious money and time in providing the required
import documents. I can see frustrated young business persons who cannot sell their innovative products to major markets because of limited market access, customs procedures and many additional behind-the-border barriers. All these people could contribute to accelerating progress and reducing poverty. They need support. They need better infrastructure,
better market access and a better policy framework to achieve these goals. This is why we have to accelerate the implementation of the Almaty Programme of Action; only then can we release the full potential and power of our people and
our region.

In this meeting, ESCAP has provided a platform for policy dialogue between landlocked developing countries, their transit countries and the development partners to discuss these issues. Over the past two days we have come a long way in clarifying the implementation gaps.

Distinguished Participants,

Let me share three important points from the discussions:

First: we have learned that the high costs related to shipping, transport and freight handling are largely avoidable. They are to a large extent caused by cumbersome customs procedures,requiring an excessive number of documents. This can be solved through harmonization, simplification and standardization of rules and documentation. International conventions on transport and transit are the main vehicle to achieve this.

Second: We have also learned that there are still remarkable infrastructure gaps, which cannot be addressed without involving the private sector. Hence, the importance of public private partnership.

Thirdly, we have learned that the landlocked and the transit countries share many common problems. It has become clear that many issues have to be addressed in a framework of mutual cooperation, especially among neighbouring countries. The Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA) for example, can provide landlocked and transit developing countries with opportunities from the dynamic trade and investment flows that characterize our region.

It is indeed encouraging to note that major progress has been made in the implementation of trade facilitation reform programmes and measures. A lot more still needs to be done to cut the red tape and reduce trade transaction costs. For landlocked countries, establishing electronic Single Window and paperless trade systems is crucial, as such systems can compensate for physical distance and geographical disadvantages. Therefore, I am pleased to note that a number of countries have already initiated steps toward establishing a Single Window and ESCAP will provide a forum for sharing these experiences.

All in all, this review has shown that although progress has been made, much more needs to be done to meet the commitments in the Almaty Programme of Action.

ESCAP will on its part support member states in these efforts. The development comprehensive trade and transportation policies to support infrastructure and border crossings will continue to be high on the ESCAP agenda.

Distinguished participants, You have identified the implementation gaps of this programme and have come up with recommendations to accelerate its implementation. This will be submitted to senior officials and Ministers at the ESCAP Commission.

In closing, let me thank you for your rich participation I look forward to the Chairperson’s presentation of the outcome document at the 64th Commission Session tomorrow.

Thank you.