A partnership with academia

Building knowledge for trade and development


altA group of 26 students and faculty members from Vi’s latest Colombian affiliate member, Universidad de la Salle, came to UNCTAD for a study visit October 7.

The aim of the one-day training programme was to introduce the students to UNCTAD’s work on trade, gender and development, as well as the findings of the latest Trade and Development Report (TDR) and the World Investment Report (WIR).

During the first session, Simonetta Zarrilli, of UNCTAD’s Division on International Trade in Goods and Services, and Commodities, presented the topic of gender and trade.
“Labour market segregation confines women to work in specific sectors. This limits the extent to which they can contribute to economic growth,” Zarrilli began.  

This has a negative impact on the allocation of labour, productivity and income distribution. It also contributes significantly to the gender wage gap", she added.

The link between trade and gender goes in both directions. On the one hand, gender-based inequalities can have a negative impact on countries' trade policy outcomes and performance. On the other hand, trade and trade policies can affect gender - through income and employment opportunities, changes in consumer goods prices, and generation and distribution of government revenues.

UNCTAD supports member countries in making their economic policy, especially the trade policy, a factor contributing to inclusive development.

 “Policy actions are needed to ensure progress to gender equality and women's empowerment. Economic and trade policies have to be responsive to gender considerations,” she concluded.

The second session was led by Alex Izurieta, of UNCTAD's Division on Globalization and Development Strategies, who presented  this year’s TDR.

"The rise of inequality and the persistent financial instability which have accompanied the spread of market liberalism continue to be major obstacles to sustained growth,” Izurieta stated.

"There are alternatives but rich and poor countries need much greater policy ambition and cooperation," he added.

According to the TDR, the current policy mix, combining monetary expansion with fiscal austerity and wage restraint is ineffective. The global financial cycle is still mainly driven by developed countries’ policy decisions.

Developing countries need sufficient policy space to advance a post-2015 development agenda. They can achieve this by using the remaining policy space skillfully to pursue proactive policies of structural transformation and by considering the loss of policy space carefully when engaging in bilateral and regional trade and investment agreements.

The final lecture delivered by Kalman Kalotay, of UNCTAD's Division on Investment and Enterprise, focused on the findings of this year's WIR.

He started by presenting the current trends in global and regional FDI flows and recent policy developments, and then focused on the main topic of this year's report - investing in sustainable development goals (SDGs).

According to WIR, global FDI flowsgrew by 9 per cent in 2013, to $1.45 trillion, with developing countries further increasing their share in global FDI inflows to 54 per cent.

“FDI flows to Latin America and the Caribbean increased for the fourth consecutive year and Colombia is among the top 20 host economies of largest recipients of FDI”, Kalotay said. “For example, most of the FDI in Mexico is efficiency seeking, so it is influenced by the United States market, whereas in South America, FDI is mostly local market seeking, looking for large markets, such as Brazil,” he continued.

“FDI flows to Colombia increased by 8 per cent, largely due to cross-border mergers & acquisitions in the electricity and banking industries,” he added.

Investment incentives currently focus more on economic performance objectives and less on social and environmental goals. “If we want to reach the SDG goals, we need $3.9 trillion of investment and the current annual investment is only $1.4, which means that the United Nations SDGs will need to bridge an investment gap of $2.5 trillion,” Kalotay said.

In the least developed countries and other vulnerable economies, public finances, which are central to investment in sustainable development sectors, cannot meet all the resource demands of the SDGs. For this reason, private sector investment is essential, especially in infrastructure, food security and climate change.

After each session, the students actively engaged in discussion with the presenters. The topics included the situation of trade and gender in Colombia and its cultural determinants, Colombian industrial policy and competitiveness, bilateral investment treaties, protectionism, role of the private sector and the quality of FDI in Colombia.