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Targeted trade policies to lift countries out of poverty

The European Commission has tabled plans to boost development in the poorest countries of the world by better adjusting trade and investment policies to their needs.

 Empowerment of the organic and fair-trade cotton industry in Mali, one of the LDCs

The Communication published on 27 January 2012 includes concrete proposals to improve the effectiveness of EU trade and development tools for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs). It outlines measures aimed at

  • refocusing the EU's preferential trade schemes on the poorest countries,
  • ensuring that free trade agreements with developing countries tackle barriers to trade effectively,
  • facilitating exports from developing countries to the EU, notably by helping these countries meet international standards,
  • improving their domestic business environment, with a view to promoting domestic and foreign direct investments
  • helping to mitigate the effects of natural disasters and tackling conflict catalysts, and at

Rather than proposing new legislation, the Commission’s proposals analyse how existing trade instruments can be used better to work hand in hand with the EU's development policy.

“Trade can create jobs, support local businesses and boost growth”, said European Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs. "We now need to make sure that trade helps those most in need even more – concentrating our support on our least developed partners, helping them adapt their economies so that they can join the global economy and take full advantage of open markets.”

He stressed that trade has already helped lift millions of people out of poverty in the last decade.

Aid and access

The Communication also takes stock of these achievements, highlighting the positive contribution of EU policies to trade-related development.

In the last 10 years, the EU delivered on a number of commitments made in its Communication on trade and development from 2002, and in its Aid for Trade strategy adopted in 2007. Today, it is, together with its Member States, the largest provider of Aid for Trade in the world, and it has the most open market to developing countries in the world.

The Aid for Trade strategy was designed to better integrate all developing countries, especially the LDCs, in the international trading system. Joint efforts by the EU and its Member States reached €10.5 billion of annual Aid for Trade in 2009.

In terms of market access, major improvements for poorer countries could be achieved thanks to the simplified preferential rules of origin applicable since the beginning of 2011 in the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP).

An improved flow of information has been achieved through the EU Export Helpdesk, which helps exporters in developing countries identify the rules and requirements to follow.

Figures reveal that all these combined efforts have contributed to making a difference on the ground: the GDP per capita increased from $325 to over $625 in the LDCs between 2000 and 2008.

The Commission believes in ownership as a critical condition for success. Therefore to maximise the impact of the initiatives proposed, developing countries are encouraged to undertake domestic reforms ensuring that all segments of the population benefit from trade-led growth.

The Communication also calls upon other developed countries and emerging economies to open their markets to the LDCs.

The Commission’s proposals are now up for discussion in the Council and the European Parliament. The Trade Council conclusions are expected by 16 March 2012. 


Last update: 10/05/2012 | Top