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    The Way Forward(2)


    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 1/2001

    Three lessons from LDC success stories

    "Behind the obvious, somewhat old story - namely the loss of LDC market share in world trade resulting from the price collapse of raw commodities - there is a new, more hopeful and more exciting grass-roots story. This is the story of a new generation of LDC entrepreneurs and investors who are finding ways to leverage the opportunities created by global trade liberalization to start rebuilding their countries' export base.

    We learned three lessons.

    The first lesson is that new export opportunities, for the most part, have little to do with those of the past. The opportunities are about finding niche products for niche markets; moving up the value chain through processing and design; responding to the ever-rising demand from consumers for higher-quality standards; entering brand-new markets like services; or shortening the distribution chain to capture a greater share of the value.

    The second lesson is that the trade liberalization effort of the past decade helped in opening up many of those new opportunities. But work must continue on lowering trade barriers, because LDC exporters at times continue to see their efforts frustrated by certain barriers in importing countries.

    The third lesson from the exporters - confirmed by public officials with us at the Business Sector Round Table - is that there is a lot that government and business together can and must do, in their countries, to improve the environment for many other entrepreneurs to emerge and grow.

    Countries have made great strides in improving the macro environment for business, but more remains to be done, often including efforts on the legal and good governance front. Enforcement of the rule of law, including enforcement of contracts and elimination of corruption, often remain problem areas for business.

    Exporters also tell us that much needs to be done to improve the support infrastructure for exports. This includes not only the obvious hard infrastructure of roads, airports, seaports, energy, water and telecommunications, but also the support services that are key to improving competitiveness of export enterprises: trade financing services, quality management services, trade facilitation (including customs inspections and customs clearance), trade information and so on. Exporters are clear: countries require technical advice and assistance for national capacity building.

    Another important point made by exporters is that, next to working on improving the enabling environment, governments need to focus efforts and resources on a limited number of priority sectors, to make the export development drive successful.

    Last, the exporters share with us another very hopeful message: work on the export front can help alleviate poverty by bringing income and jobs directly to the poorest in their society."

    J. Denis Bélisle, Executive Director, ITC,
    at the Business Sector Round Table,
    Third United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries,
    May 2001

    Opportunities in Adversity

    A new generation of entrepreneurs

    A new generation of modern business people from LDCs have made a success by exploiting business opportunities through innovation, hard work, progress management and an understanding of a fast-changing and increasingly demanding international business environment.

    To succeed broadly in the highly competitive and changing international markets, LDCs and their exporters need:

    • access to state-of-the-art technologies and infrastructure;
    • a national enabling environment underpinned by good trade policies and strategies;
    • top-notch trade support and business advisory services to facilitate production and marketing; as well as
    • reliable partners to help fulfil these needs.

    Sound policies and strategies
    Export-friendly policies and strategies are essential for LDC exporters to take advantage of apportunities provided by the multilateral trading system. ITC assists LDCs in the formulation of sectoral and national export strategies and to develop enterprise-level strategies for product development and market penetration.

    Efficient trade support and business services

    ITC specializes in providing targeted trade support and business advisory services to exproters in LDCs. These can help LDC firms to meet quality and standards requirements, improving packaging and design, access export finance, apply benchmarking tools and guage export competitiveness.

    Reliable partners

    Exporters in LDCs are well poised to capitalize on business opportunities. They require strong support, guidance and encouragement from the entire network of trade support institutions, policy- and strategy-makers and from LDCs' development partners such as ITC to provide them with modern tools so that as new opportunities evolve, LDC exporters will innovate and adapt to new challenges and emerge as champions.

    State-of-the-art technologies and infrastructure

    ITC offers LDC partners tools to maximize opportunities and minimize risks of international trading in the digital age and can help them improve the international competitiveness of SMEs. It provides support for drawing up integrated e-trade action plans, enhancing e-readiness and building e-trade networks.