Brussels, 16 March 2010 - European Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht today opened a conference focused on the European Union’s trade policy towards developing countries. The objective of this conference is to discuss publicly how to maintain the effectiveness of the EU’s General System of Preferences (GSP) in promoting development, how to make the most of regional trade agreements with developing countries, and how to encourage sustainable development. Commissioner De Gucht also announced the launch of a public consultation to support the review of the EU’s GSP scheme in the coming month.

"In formulating its trade policy towards developing countries the EU needs to take into account recent changes in the global economic landscape with emerging economies playing an increasingly important role. However, more vulnerable developing countries are still facing challenges in exploiting the full potential of trade. But ultimately everybody on the planet should be better off from trade. We have five years to translate good intentions into good results", said Commissioner De Gucht.

Developing countries advance in world markets at different speeds. That is why today's conference brings together a wide range of stakeholders, thus ensuring as many perspectives as possible to the discussion. Participants include: representatives from the Spanish Presidency and the European Parliament, development scholars and economists, as well as trade and development practitioners and civil society representatives.

The outcome of the debate will feed into a reflection on the future direction of EU trade policy as regards its contribution to development.

Another important aspect of the conference is the launch of a public consultation on the review of the EU's GSP scheme, under which the EU grants tariff preferences to developing countries. The results of this consultation will feed into the Commission's future proposal to the European Parliament and Council on an updated GSP regulation. All interested stakeholders are encouraged to participate. The Consultation will be available on DG Trade's website shortly.


While trade is not a guaranteed route to economic growth for developing countries, evidence suggests that trade and openness to the global economy play an important role in creating jobs and prosperity worldwide.

Making trade work for development involves substantial country ownership of its policy agenda. There is no single model for trade and development. The needs of every developing economy must be carefully weighed and policies tailored to reflect different vulnerabilities - and different potential strengths.

Through its trade policy the EU aims to ensure that developing countries are able to benefit from access to its own markets and from the openness of the global economy. It sees progressive openness to trade as one part of a development strategy that has already lifted hundreds of millions of people in the developing world out of poverty, and can do the same for hundreds of millions more.

Read the full opening speech at

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