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Senior UN official calls for greater access to US markets by poor countries in Asia-Pacific

Senior UN official calls for greater access to US markets by poor countries in Asia-Pacific

The United Nations envoy for the world's poorest countries today called for greater access to markets in the United States for the least developed nations in the Asia and Pacific region.

"The United States should also extend a similar scheme like the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) to the Asian and Pacific LDCs as well. What I am proposing is an Asia-Pacific counterpart scheme for LDCs similar to AGOA – a kind of 'Asian AGOA,'" Anwarul K. Chowdhury said in Bangkok.

Mr. Chowdhury is the UN Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, and his comments today opened a meeting of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific's (ESCAP) Special Body dealing with the unique concerns of those countries.

The Special Body is meeting in the Thai capital through tomorrow to consider the role of trade, debt relief and aid for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and using communications and space technologies for meeting development challenges. The Commission's sixty-first annual session is set to kick off in Bangkok from 12 to 18 May.

"In the international context," Mr. Chowdhury explained, "736 million people or 11.5 per cent of the world's population live in these 50 LDCs. By 2015 this population is estimated to rise by more than 200 million – reaching 942 million or 13.1 per cent of the global population." The tragic part is that about half of this population could be living in dire poverty.

Mr. Chowdhury said that in terms of market access, the least developed countries have been provided almost full access by major trading nations, but the benefits of this access have contributed little to the development prospects of these countries due to intractable supply-side constraints.

"The proposed changes in the 'rules of origin' for least developed countries by the European Union and much-needed decision for reduction of subsidies on agricultural products would boost the trade opportunities for these countries," he said.

The High Representative hailed last month's agreement for the $34 billion increased replenishment of the resources of the International Development Association (IDA) that has opened up more opportunities for LDCs and most vulnerable countries. "This represents the largest expansion of IDA resources in two decades and LDCs should gear up to take full advantage of this increase," he said.

Mr. Chowdhury also briefed the Special Body on his Office's preparations for the mid-term review of the 2001 Brussels Programme of Action, scheduled to take place next year during the sixty-first session of the General Assembly.