H.E. Ambassador Yoshiyuki Motomura
Deputy Permanent Representative of Japan
to the United Nations
At the International Ministerial Conference
of Landlocked and Transit Developing Countries
and Donor Countries
and International Financial and Development Institutions
on Transit Transport Cooperation
23 July 2003
Representatives of International Organizations,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure for me to participate on behalf of the Government of Japan in the International Ministerial Conference of Landlocked and Transit Developing Countries and the Donor Countries and International Financial and Development Institutions on Transit Transport Cooperation.
First of all, I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the Chair of the landlocked developing countries group, the Government of the Lao People's Democratic Republic, for its initiative to hold this first high-level conference addressing the issue of transit transport which confronts the landlocked countries. I would also like to thank the Secretariat, and in particular Ambassador Chowdhury, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, for preparing for this Conference. In addition, let me express our sincere appreciation to the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan for hosting the Conference.
Japan, as one of the major donors of development assistance, has tackled development issues facing developing countries based on the fundamental principle that it is imperative to reduce poverty by achieving economic growth. We have paid special attention to those with the most vulnerable economies through TICAD, the Tokyo International Conference on African Development, which targets Africa, where the majority of LDCs are found, and the Japan-Pacific Islands Summit Meeting, for small island developing countries.
Landlocked developing countries, at a disadvantage due to the geographical constraint of isolation from the sea, constitute another group of vulnerable developing countries to which my Government attaches special importance. Ambassador Satoh, former Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations, twice chaired the expert meetings that led to this conference.
Central Asian countries, located in the heart of the massive Eurasian continent, are typical examples of landlocked countries. Surrounded by Russia, China, South and West Asia and the Middle East, Central Asia had thrived since time immemorial as a crossroads for trade and exchange among various civilizations. It is this region which played a central role in linking up the Silk Road in the past. Given the ongoing integration of the world economy, however, this area now faces the challenge of finding new ways to trade with the rest of the world. Some of these countries even have to cross borders twice before reaching the sea.
LLDCs suffer from high transport costs in international trade as a result of these geographical constraints, and this circumstance puts them in a very disadvantageous position for economic development. In order to address the issue of high transport costs, it is imperative that LLDCs, transit developing countries and donor countries strengthen cooperation in the areas of infrastructure development, trade facilitation and regional cooperation. As has been pointed out in the Almaty Programme of Action, both LLDCs and the transit developing countries can benefit from revitalization of the regional economy as a whole and the subsequent expansion of the scale of their economies. In this context, it goes without saying that ownership of LLDCs and partnerships among LLDCs, transit developing countries and donor countries are crucial. Based on these ideas, the Government of Japan has given high priority to the following three points: strengthening of economic infrastructure, improvement in software cooperation to enable smooth and efficient border crossing and promotion of regional cooperation.
Firstly, with regard to economic infrastructure, Japan has focused on the strengthening of transport infrastructure in both LLDCs and transit developing countries. For example, in Kazakhstan, the Government of Japan has provided a total of US$ 560 million for projects such as improvement of railroad transport capacity, road rehabilitation, bridge construction and rehabilitation of the Astana airport. We have also conducted development surveys of transit road and air transport systems. In transit developing countries, Japan has assisted in road improvement and port rehabilitation. Please refer to the brochure for more details regarding Japan's assistance to individual countries. We will continue our support for the strengthening and maintenance of infrastructure, including transport and communication networks, giving full consideration to both the environment and the local culture.
Secondly, it is important to improve trade procedures, including customs procedures, to ensure smooth and efficient border crossing for LLDCs. Such simplification or standardization is of benefit not only to LLDCs but also to transit developing countries. The existence of international rules is essential to the successful realization of trade facilitation, and Japan is ready to take an active part in the rule-making process in the WTO, along with international organizations and other Member States. I would like to seek the support of governments and international organizations participating in this Conference for the initiation of negotiations on the WTO rule-making process. Believing that human capacity-building is the key to nation-building, Japan has also focused on capacity-building for the purpose of trade facilitation. In Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi and Laos, for example, we have offered training courses on the computerization of customs procedures, and in Ethiopia, Uganda and Kazakhstan, courses on customs administration. In Azerbaijan, a national IT strategy developed with assistance from Japan and UNDP led to the introduction of a computerized customs system. As a result, customs revenue doubled in one year, and Azerbaijan became a model for other CIS countries in this regard. We will continue to provide assistance for capacity-building in the area of trade through seminars and workshops.
Thirdly, regarding regional cooperation in addressing the transit transport issue, it is necessary to address a region as a whole, including adjacent transit developing countries. From this perspective, I would like to briefly explain the Greater Mekong Subregional Development, an initiative Japan has undertaken in collaboration with the Asian Development Bank. This project covers Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos and the Yunnan Province of China. It is a regional and cross-border development project, and one of the achievements we anticipate is the establishment of basic transport networks. For instance, the Second Mekong International Bridge, which is near completion, will soon make the East-West Corridor one road, linking Vietnam and Myanmar through Laos. It is important to utilize this corridor effectively so that it will lead to the development of relevant industries and promotion of tourism in the neighboring areas. We strongly hope that the countries concerned will exercise their ownership and contribute to the creation of this economic corridor in their own regions. Japan, for its part, will continue its support for regional cooperation.
It is my hope that this first global ministerial-level conference will facilitate further cooperation among LLDCs, transit developing countries and donors, and that such cooperation will vitalize the economies of each region, and lead to mutually shared economic prosperity on the level of that which we find in Europe.
I am certain that this conference will adopt a Programme of Action to serve as a practical and effective set of guidelines for achieving solutions to transit transport issues. This, however, will only be the beginning. What is important is implementation of the Programme of Action by LLDCs, transit developing countries, donors, international organizations and all other stakeholders. Japan is prepared, as a development partner, to cooperate to the fullest extent possible to implement this Programme.