UNCTAD suggests reforming multinational trading system

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The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to “reverse much of the economic and social progress already made” towards achievement of sustainable development goals (SDGs), according to a report by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Secretariat, which recommended reconstructing a multinational trading system by reforming the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to deliver negotiated outcomes and contributes to post-crisis recovery and longer-term development.

The report titled, ‘International Trade and Development,’ says economic and social disruptions caused by COVID-19 have resulted in about $6 trillion in losses in global trade, approximately 50 per cent larger than the decline in trade that occurred during the 2008 recession.

Economic disruptions have affected some sectors more than others, particularly the automotive, textiles and apparel sectors, the tourism sector, and various machinery sectors, UNCTAD said in a press release.

COVID-19 is “not only a health crisis, but also a job and livelihoods crisis” that impacts SDG progress, the report asserts. Absolute falls in export earnings affect the capacity of the least developed countries (LDCs) to achieve the SDGs and to achieve SDG target 17.11, to double their share of global exports by 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated inequalities (SDG 10) and significantly affected female-intensive economic sectors (SDG 5), such as the garment sector, pushing female workers towards extreme poverty (SDG 1).

The report emphasises that the realisation of the gender-related aspects of the 2030 Agenda ‘are at risk’. The economic crisis disproportionately impacts women in several ways outlined in the report, including an “exponential increase in the time women devote to care work,” which affects their ability to keep jobs or remain engaged in full-time employment.