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Least developed countries (LDCs) are likely to become "the major locus of extreme poverty in the world economy by 2015" if without a strong link between trade and poverty reduction, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has warned.

"International trade can play a major positive role in reducing poverty in LDCs. However, in practice this is not happening in many of them," UNCTAD said in its LDCs 2004 report released ahead of its 11th session, scheduled for June 13-18.

Most LDCs undertook deep trade liberalization in the 1990s and received some degree of preferential market access from developed and developing countries, "but trade liberalization plus enhanced market access does not necessarily equal poverty reduction," the report said.

UNCTAD attributed the failure to weaker linkages between trade and economic growth than in the more advanced developing countries. Civil conflicts in some of the LDCs have also been associated with immiserizing trade, it said.

The Geneva-based UN body said a more effective link between international trade and poverty reduction could help prevent LDCs from being further marginalized in a globalized world.

It suggested in the report that actions be taken on three fronts:

--a two-way mainstreaming of both trade and development within
national poverty reduction strategies;

--increased and effective international financial and
technical assistance for developing domestic production and trade

--and an enabling international trade regime.
UNCTAD also called for phasing out of agricultural support
measures by developed countries, endorsing of new international
policies to reduce vulnerability to negative commodity price
shocks, opening market to LDCs complemented by new supply-side
preferences, and enhancing South-South cooperation in the field of
trade and investment.

Fifty countries in the world are currently listed by the United
Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) as LDCs, of them 10
are in Asia, 34 in Africa, five in Oceania and one in Latin
America. ECOSOC reviewed the LDCs list every three years.XINHUA NEWS AGENCY:

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