Courtesy Reuters

After the U.N. Trade Conference: Lessons and Portents

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development-UNCTAD-was not only the biggest trade conference in history, it was the biggest international conference in history on any subject, numbering upwards of 2,000 delegates. It is worth repeating what Isaiah Frank noted in his article in the January 1964 issue of this journal, that the developing countries viewed the conference as the single most important event for them since the founding of the U.N. The formal findings and recommendations of the conference, which lasted for 12 weeks ending in mid-June, are embodied in its Final Act. That governments consider this an important document is clear from the long hours and occasional bitter debate that went into its formulation. But it is also clear that the official record of the conference at best can give only official conclusions and that these alone are not the stuff of which future policy is made.

The official conclusions are important. The preamble of the Final Act contains the "message" the developing countries want the world to have about the conference and why it was called. The Final Act states flatly: "The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development was convened in order to provide, by means of international coöperation, appropriate solutions to the problems of world trade in the interests of all peoples and particularly to the urgent trade and development problems of the developing countries."

The "findings" listed in the Final Act contain an excellent catalogue of what the developing countries see as their trade problems. These include the disproportionately small share of developing countries in the more than doubling of world trade since 1950 and the resultant insufficiency of their foreign exchange earnings-hence, as they see it, the adverse effect this has had on their development. Developing countries contend that their terms of trade have deteriorated seriously in the last decade; that is, that there has been a marked decline in prices for many commodities which developing countries sell, and some increase in prices for the manufactured

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