Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 05/2010

Open Markets for the Poorest Countries: Trade Preferences That Work

Kimberly Ann Elliott

April 2010

Center for Global Development


Trade preference programs are an important and underused tool for stimulating exports, creating jobs, reducing poverty, and promoting prosperity and stability in poor countries. While many rich countries provide special access for exports from the least developed countries (LDCs) to promote these benefits, the trade preferences often do not extend to the products that matter most to LDCs, such as agriculture and clothing. Improving these programs could make a major difference in the lives of the poor, while having minimal effects on production or exports in preference-giving countries because the affected trade is so small: less than 1 percent of global exports are from LDCs. And, in the longer term, improved trade preferences for LDCs will promote shared prosperity and stability in rich and poor countries alike. Recognizing the role of trade in poverty reduction, the UN's Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for poor countries call on high-income countries to provide duty-free, quota-free market access for the LDCs.