12 July 2012

Liberia: EU Delegation Releases Major Statement

The European Union Delegation to Liberia has released a statement, quoting the European Commission as detailing how the EU and its Member States have once again been confirmed as the largest provider of Aid for Trade in the world, despite the current economic crisis.

According to the statement, the confirmation of the EU and its Member States as the leading contributors of Aid for Trade was contained in a new monitoring report presented by the European Commission at the EU Headquarters in Brussels on Monday, 9 July 2012.

The report revealed that the EU accounted for around a third of total worldwide Aid for Trade in 2010; maintaining the all-time high registered the year before and totaling some €10.7 billion committed. Aid for Trade helps countries to develop trade strategies, build trade-related infrastructure and improve their productive capacity in order to encourage growth and reduce poverty.

Activities include helping countries to build their capacity to trade, through training and technical cooperation such as supporting national trade priorities, adjusting legislation on trade and providing technical assistance for studies on trade-related subjects.

The report shows that total Trade Related Assistance reached €2.6 billion in 2010 and the EU and its Member States remain the biggest providers, contributing 60% of global commitments. Sub-Saharan Africa continues to be the main beneficiary of EU Aid for Trade. In the specific case of Liberia, the EU and its Member States provide Aid for Trade in a wide range of sectors, in particular infrastructure (roads, energy) and productive sectors (agriculture, forestry).

Also, as part of the Aid for Trade initiative, the EU and Liberia signed an international forestry agreement known as the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) - which is aimed at trade facilitation while strengthening forest sector governance and law enforcement which will be accompanied by a 10 million Euro support programme.

On trade-related technical assistance, the EU said it supported the Ministry of Commerce and Industry in its early preparations for accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and that over the coming 5 years (2012-2017), the Swedish Trade Board will provide a specific technical assistance programme to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry to support Liberia's accession to WTO, including through capacity building and support to the participation in Working Party meetings in Geneva.

Also, the EU disclosed it has been funding the establishment of National Standard Laboratories (Metrological, Chemical and Microbiological) under the West-Africa Quality Programme implemented by UNIDO, as well as technical assistance to the modernization of the Bureau of Customs and Excise with the objectives of trade facilitation and revenue increase from customs operations.

A good example of the EU's Aid for Trade at work is a project to increase coffee production in a factory in Rwanda. Around 60,000 farmers there benefited from the project, which supports the country's tea and coffee industry. The EU provided new machines; built roads to help people easily access the estates and trained the farmers. This effectively helped relaunch coffee production in Rwanda, and now coffee and tea have a 38% share in total export value; providing jobs for many of the country's poor as a result.

In releasing the Aid for Trade report in Brussels, EU Development Commissioner, Andris Piebalgs said: "Increasing and improving trade opportunities is part of the solution towards inclusive and sustainable growth of developing countries. Indeed, no country has ever lifted itself out of poverty without trade, at regional and international level.

The EU is committed to maintain its world leader position on Aid for Trade. We need to make sure that people in the world's poorest countries have access to markets, helping them to make a living, create jobs and encourage growth as a result." Trade Commissioner, Karel De Gucht declared that: "The EU provides more trade-related development assistance than the rest of the world put together. This underlines our unwavering commitment to support developing countries' integration into the global economy. Aid for Trade empowers operators in developing countries to boost their trade to the EU, making the best of the EU's generous tariff preferences. We will continue to help the developing countries most in need to make the most of open markets and to reduce poverty".

It can be recalled that in 2007, the EU and its Member States adopted a joint Aid for Trade (AfT) Strategy - aiming at supporting developing countries, particularly Least Developed Countries (LDCs), to better integrate into the world trading system and to use trade more effectively in order to eradicate poverty. The strategy focuses both on increasing the volume of AfT and on enhancing its results and effectiveness.

Responses to an AfT questionnaire from EU Delegations and Member States' field offices on the ground were also included in the report and show constant improvement in terms of the dialogue between donors and beneficiaries, and joint operations, as well as the inclusion of regional integration priorities into countries' national development plans or trade strategies.

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