Least developed countries (LDCs) have very high trade-to-GDP ratios, reflecting the fact that they are heavily dependent on trade. Over the past few decades, they have also embarked upon significant trade reforms. Although LDCs had relatively high economic growth during the past decade, unemployment, poverty, and inequality continue to be major development challenges in these countries. Against this backdrop, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) developed a project to strengthen the capacity of trade and planning ministries of selected LDCs to develop and implement trade strategies conducive to poverty reduction. The project was funded by the UN Development Account for the period 2013–2015 and had six LDCs as beneficiaries: Ethiopia, Lesotho, and Senegal in Africa, and Bhutan, Kiribati, and Lao PDR in Asia and the Pacific. As part of the project, national workshops on the trade policymaking and trade main-streaming experiences of the beneficiary countries were organized by UNCTAD in collaboration with the governments involved and partner organizations. Two regional workshops were also organized: one on Africa and one on Asia and the Pacific.
This handbook is the outcome of the workshops and research conducted under the project. It draws lessons from the experiences of the six countries that participated and provides fresh insights on how to design and implement an effective trade strategy in LDCs. It also provides clarity on the concept of main-streaming trade and identifies criteria on how to measure success in this endeavour. The handbook should be useful to policymakers in developing countries, development analysts, academics, and students of development. In this regard, it is meant to be a guide to policy formulation and implementation in LDCs, with the understanding that its application will vary from country to country because of differences in economic structure, history, and social and political realities.