IOI participation at the Special Panel Discussion under the Thirty-Second Session of the Trade Preferences among Developing Countries (GSTP), 19 September 2023

Harnessing the GSTP to forge a development-led sustainable transition among member countries

Reported by Behzad ALIPOUR TEHRANY, IOI representative

The special panel discussion under the thirty-second session of the committee of participants of the General System of Trade Preferences among Developing Countries (GSTP) was held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva (following the morning session of GSTP committee of participants). The panel, chaired by Dr Awni Behnam, IOI Honorary President, former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations and former Senior Advisor to the UNCTAD Secretary General. Ambassador Federico Villegas of Argentina who chaired the morning session of the GSTP committee was also present. 


Dr Behnam in his introductory remarks recalled that: “GSTP, as a unique partnership framework of South-South cooperation emerged from discussions of the Group of 77 and China within UNCTAD in 1988 to promote trade through preferential tariffs. Today, with rapid geopolitical, environmental and climatic changes, GSTP becomes more relevant. United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as adopted in 2015 as well as 2030 Agenda, with SDG14 calling for use of oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development together with other ocean-based treaties, environmental/climatic protocols and agreements, bring about new dimensions and requirements to GSTP. The new circumstances highlight importance of environmental goods and technologies that should be included in trade negotiations under GSTP. Thus, the present panel shall discuss how sectoral and technological tariff/non-tariff trade negotiations would respond to the greening of GSTP and how it could be harnessed to maximize the benefits of trade transactions amongst developing countries”. 


Dr Behnam introduced the panelists: Chantal Line Carpentier, Head, Trade, Environment, Climate Change and Sustainable Development Branch, DITC; Robert Hamwey, Economic Affairs Officer, Trade, Environment, Climate Change and Sustainable Development Branch, DITC (online from UN New York); Christophe Bellmann, Head, Policy Analysis and Strategy, Forum on Trade, Environment & the SDGs (TESS); Carlos Correa, Executive Director, South Centre. 


Ms Carpentier spoke on greening the GSTP and addressed South-South cooperation on low carbon technological goods and sustainable food products as well as plastic substitutes. Mr Bellmann, in his remarks, shared his perspective and experience regarding the importance of South-South trade in food and agricultural products and further integration and complementarity in food value chain. The third speaker, Mr Correa, presented his views on the potential of South-South cooperation on transfer of green technologies. 


Following the presentations by the speakers, Dr Behnam opened the floor for comments and questions. Mr Behzad Alipour Tehrany, representative of IOI, made the first intervention by recalling that the time when GSTP was created, the environmental/climatic aspects of trade were almost non-existent. Now with their inclusion, one key element in trade facilitation amongst developing countries, that is, trade financing, becomes even more crucial. Considering the rising cost of financial/banking & currency transactions as well as high interest rates, it would be necessary to find mechanisms to lower such costs so that developing countries are further encouraged to increase trade among them. For example, with respect to marine preservation and economic benefits therefrom the supply of environmental goods and surveillance technologies to protect marine life, would not be as simple as fish or other food products trade; not to say about illegal trade (in line with SDG goal 14). Therefore, some system of clearing and methods to balance trade among GSTP members would facilitate supply and exchange of the said technologies.


In response, Mr David Vivas from UNCTAD recalled that some Latin American countries have elaborated some regional arrangements in trade financing, using local currencies as well as a clearing mechanism to balance trade and settle payments in hard currencies only at the end of a designated fiscal period. Along this, Ms Miho Shirotori, Director of the Division on International Trade and Commodities of UNCTAD also highlighted the importance of trade financing and promised to organise future follow up meetings in this respect through inviting proper actors to share their knowledge and experience in financing of transactions.