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Study: Poor Countries Marginalized

February 13, 2000

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) _ The world’s 48 poorest countries are failing to benefit from free trade and globalization and face worsening poverty, inequality and marginalization, a U.N. report said Sunday.

Economic production has declined for three straight years in the least-developed countries while their share of global trade has plunged, said the report issued by the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development.

``There is no greater challenge facing the international community today than integrating the least developed countries into the world economy,″ said UNCTAD Deputy Secretary-General Carlos Fortin. ``They are being increasingly marginalized.″

Since 1971, the number of countries categorized by the United Nations as extremely poor has risen from 25 to 48. During that period, only one country, Botswana, has graduated from the list.

Thirty-three of the poorest nations are in Africa, nine in Asia, five in the Pacific and one in Latin America.

The report, released at an UNCTAD meeting in Bangkok, said rich countries should remove all tariffs and quotas on products from the poorest countries to allow them to sell more.

Developing countries have complained that trade agreements negotiated by the World Trade Organization have cut tariffs on many products exported by rich nations, while falling to address agriculture, textiles and garments _ key products for poorer countries.

The report also urged donor countries to provide more aid to enable poor countries to produce more so they can benefit from free trade.

``The main problem of the least developed countries today is they don’t produce enough,″ Fortin said.

In real terms, aid provided to the least-developed countries has fallen by 23 percent in the past decade, the report said.

Unlike wealthier developing countries, the poorest nations are generally unable to turn to private investment for capital, and attract less than 1 percent of all foreign direct investment, the report said.

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