Magazine article International Trade Forum

Turning LDC Export Opportunities into Business

Magazine article International Trade Forum

Turning LDC Export Opportunities into Business

Article excerpt

The ITC and Government of Norway Business Sector Round Table (BSRT) held on 16 May 2001 at the Third United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (14-20 May 2001) put a surprising spotlight on the situation of the world's 49 poorest countries. The BSRT showed that many exceptional entrepreneurs from least developed countries (LDCs) have been able to achieve export success - often with important benefits for their workers and communities. Twenty went to Brussels to tell their LDC success stories to the more than 250 people - business executives and senior trade officials from LDCs along with multilateral agency and donor government representatives - who took part in the round table. We gathered many more of these success stories, which are featured on the BSRT web site ( bsrt/) and in our publication on turning LDC export opportunities into business.

ITC conceived the BSRT as an opportunity to analyse and reveal export potential in LDCs as a whole, focusing on those sectors of particular importance to least developed countries, and highlighting constraints as well as opportunities. Selected LDC exporters would tell their stories, demonstrating how they were able to overcome often formidable constraints and `make it' in the highly competitive international environment. Export strategy processes under way in LDCs would be considered along with the enabling circumstances needed to replicate these exceptional export successes on a much wider scale. Finally, it was decided that a book, prepared for wide distribution in LDCs, would document the discussion and experience and serve as a `road map' for export development over the ensuing years.

Profiles of promising LDC markets

The research carried out for the BSRT put together, we think for the first time, profiles of 13 sectors that look particularly promising for LDCs. In order of their present importance for LDCs in international trade, they are: cotton fabric and clothing; tourism; seafood; business and professional services; coffee; cotton and fibres; wood and wood products; oilseeds; fruits and nuts; vegetables; spices; cut flowers and foliage; and medicinal plants. They are reviewed in this issue of Forum.

Success stories: common themes

We devised an opportunities framework for these LDC `success stories'. They had all made use of several main types of opportunities available to LDCs, making their mark internationally by:

> moving up the value chain;

> finding niche markets and ways of product innovation;

> embracing the services revolution;

> turning comparative advantage into competitive opportunity;

> overcoming technical and structural barriers, and

> exploiting South-South market opportunities.

Tips for creating an enabling environment

Many of them, of course, put their efforts into more than one of these opportunities. But the struggles they faced in establishing themselves also indicated how LDC governments could improve conditions for business in their countries, and how strategy-makers could provide the support services that entrepreneurs need to turn their export opportunities into business. In short, the round table brought forward a number of ideas about how to create an `enabling environment' for trade development in LDCs.

Through its information services, capacity-building programmes, network support and poverty-reduction focus, ITC offers some of the tools to enable strategymakers to increase competitiveness within their economies, whether encouraging South-South trade, introducing support for LDCs to deal with multilateral trading system issues, such as World Tr@de Net or JITAP (the Joint Integrated Assistance Programme for African Countries with WTO and UNCTAD), providing supply chain or export skills training and counselling, or running programmes to improve quality management. …

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