Held in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka next week, the three-day strategy session will focus on securing preferential tariffs for participating nations and help in boosting trade with wealthier countries.
Bangladeshi Prime Minister
Khaleda Zia will address the
conference on its closing day
"LDCs have no alternatives...but to adopt trade as a principal tool for fighting poverty," Commerce Minister, Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury, told reporters.
"If all factors of production are moving but not labour, then what's the point of free markets and liberalisation?" he asked.
About 38 of the world’s 49 LDCs will participate in the meeting in an attempt to come up with a set of recommendations to be discussed by a WTO meeting of global trade officials in September in Cancun, Mexico.
Chowdhury said the LDCs believed that boosting trade was the best way to lessen dependence on foreign assistance.
"We are slowly moving from aid to trade," Chowdhury said.
Poverty-stricken Bangladesh has itself felt the pinch of shrinking foreign aid, which has accounted for around half of its national budget.
Chowdhury admits that the task will not be easy: "It is a very, very difficult job to integrate the LDCs in the multilateral trading system as different countries are at different stages of development."
The United Nations designates 49 countries as least-developed, most of them in Africa. The criteria include having gross domestic product of less than 900 dollars per capita, weak health and educational assets, and high economic vulnerability.