Reducing Poverty through Trade

International Trade Forum, January 1, 2004 | Go to article overview

Reducing Poverty through Trade


CHALLENGES

Trade does provide economic benefits, but they may not reach the poorest people.

Trade can work at three basic levels to boost a country's growth and reduce poverty. First, the right policies encourage trade expansion in general, which helps generate income and provides a resource base for development. second, governments can promote exports specifically in sectors that maximize jobs and income. Third, they can help the poorest people - those who hardly participate in the formal economy - to become active participants in export activities.

Developing countries can face challenges at all these levels.

In many countries, the problem starts at the top. Policy-makers responsible for preparing development strategies do not often pay enough attention to integrating trade in their strategies. While there's a lot of rhetoric about how trade acts as an engine for growth, strategies still hamper, rather than promote, trade in many developing countries. And also, few blueprints exist that show countries how to reduce poverty through trade.

In addition, export sectors that could do most to reduce poverty aren't always included in national export strategies. To reduce poverty, it is the pattern of growth generated through trade that matters. Therefore, growth must also occur in sectors where small producers can be integrated into the value chain of products and services.

Finally, poor communities do not usually have the business skills necessary to break into global trade. When it comes to seizing new business opportunities, poor people can suffer the disadvantages of little or no education, business training or connections to those who can help them start or expand a business in the formal economy. …

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