Buhari wants duty-free market access for least developed countries

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Leon Usigbe- Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday called on developed and developing nations to grant duty-free and quota-free market access for products originating from the world’s 46 least-developed countries to ensure their integration into regional and global value chains.

He made the call in Doha, Qatar, in his statement at the United Nations (UN) Conference of Least Developed Countries in the Middle Eastern nation.

According to a statement issued by Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President (Media & Publicity), the President strongly criticized the current structure of the global financial system, placing an unsustainable external debt burden on the most vulnerable countries.

But warned that such debt burdens would make it extremely difficult for LDCs to meet the 2030 Agenda for Seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The statement quoted President Buhari ‘‘In 2015, the world came together to endorse the 2030 Agenda for Seventeen Sustainable Development Goals. Undoubtedly, it was highly ambitious and would require leaders worldwide to be fully committed for the SDGs to be achieved within the projected timeframe.

‘‘Eight years on, the possibility of achieving the SDGs remains bleak for many countries, particularly the Least Developed Countries. The difficulties in achieving the SDGs are numerous and were further compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, the continued threat of Climate Change, and recently the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

‘‘The Least Developed Countries are often faced with developmental vulnerabilities and challenges that are not always of their making. These pose huge obstacles to their development efforts, hence the need for urgent and robust assistance to help unlock their potential and build socio-economic resilience.

‘‘This assistance can be provided within the Doha Programme of Action framework, which is designed to help LDCs exit their current classification.”

The President challenged developed countries, civil society actors, the private sector, and the business community to partner with the LDCs to provide the necessary resources and capacity to deliver development outcomes in the economic, social, and environmental aspects of the 2030 Agenda.

He listed some measures to help LDCs recover from COVID-19, achieve SDGs, and develop and prosper over the long term.

‘‘As a matter of urgency, there are a number of priorities we have to focus on to help achieve the SDGs in these countries and ensure their prosperity. First, COVID-19 has taught us that we must all work together to ensure that diseases do not thrive in the LDCs, due to their negative impact on productivity and economic growth, and development.

‘‘Accordingly, policy and budgetary provisions must be made to ensure equal access to medicare and vaccines for the poor and the rich. We must also work with manufacturers of medical equipment and pharmaceutical companies to provide adequate equipment, test kits, vaccines, and treatments for diseases,’’ he said.

Expounding on the issue of the rising debt burden, President Buhari underscored the need for reforms of the international financial architecture that prioritizes the need of Least Developed Countries.

He aligned with the United Nations Secretary-General’s description of the global financial system as an “unfair debt architecture that not only charges poor countries much more money to borrow on the market than advanced economies but downgrades them when they even think of restructuring their debt or applying for debt relief.”

On trade issues, President Buhari said it is important to put in place modalities to facilitate transit cooperation, transfer of technologies, and access to global e-commerce platforms, as they are critical for integrating LDCs into the regional and global value chains and communications technology services.

‘‘The adoption of a global coordination mechanism to systematically monitor illicit financial flows and engender support for a United Nations International Convention on tax matters to eliminate base erosion and profit shifting, tax evasion, capital gains tax, and other tax abuses is essential to achieving the SDGs and promoting security and economic prosperity,’’ he stressed.

On Nigeria’s expectation for the Conference, the President expressed optimism that the Doha Programme of Action would accelerate exports from LDCs by 2031 by facilitating their access to foreign markets in line with the World Trade Organization Facilitation Agreement.

On climate change, President Buhari said that LDCs continue to suffer disproportionately despite contributing least to its causes. He added that countries must prioritize cutting global emissions and work with determination to hold warming to 1.5 degrees, thereby securing the children’s future.

‘‘We must also commit to helping build resilience in developing countries while also providing the needed technical and financial support for a just transition to renewable energy,’’ he said.

He warned that climate change remains one of humanity’s biggest existential threats, posing challenges to lives and livelihoods and manifesting in different negative forms, including increased temperature, rising sea levels, flooding, drought, and desertification.

‘‘It has also led to significant loss of biodiversity. Worst still, climate change has exacerbated conflicts and led to unplanned migration, causing untold hardship in places like the Lake Chad Basin region.

‘‘The Least Developed Countries, therefore, continue to suffer disproportionately from the effects of climate change, despite contributing the least to its causes. Deaths from climate-related crises are higher in the most vulnerable countries, with projections that there will continue to be an upward trend.

‘‘We must continue to focus on how best to ensure the provision of security, education, health, and other basic services to our people to guarantee a prosperous future for all,’’ he said.

President Buhari commended the State of Qatar for hosting the Conference and thanked Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, the Emir, for inviting him.

He also appreciated the UN for its excellent organization of the conference and its continued support for the LDCs.

The President also explained his presence at the conference even though Nigeria is not categorized as one of the Least Developed Countries.
‘‘Nigeria is here to show solidarity and support to the LDCs in the quest to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, especially in this decade of action, where no one should be left behind,’’ he said.

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