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Global negotiations on strengthening international trade rules have been hindered for many years. The World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Ninth Ministerial Conference held in Bali, Indonesia, in December 2013, produced a package of agreements to advance the multilateral trade agenda (including a Trade Facilitation Agreement and a series of decisions on agriculture, development and least developed country issues), but remaining disagreements have stalled its formal adoption. Additional issues relevant to sustainable development are included in the mandate of the Doha Round, such as the liberalization of trade in environmental goods and services, and the implementation of duty-free, quota-free market access for all least developed countries. WTO ministers have committed to consider a final work programme to conclude the Doha Round of multilateral negotiations that began in 2001. It is time to address politically sensitive issues, such as agricultural export subsidies, and signal that global cooperation on trade liberalization in the interest of global development is still possible.
To further facilitate the participation of the poorest countries in the international trading system, in accordance with their own nationally owned strategies, “aid for trade” and the Enhanced Integrated Framework for assisting developing 41 Global governance for financing sustainable development countries and least developed countries in particular are of central importance.
Trade-related technical assistance, capacity-building and trade facilitation and efforts to mainstream trade into development policies should all be reinforced.
In addition, the increased prevalence of global value chains has tightened the link between trade and foreign direct investment.67 To achieve a better balance between investor rights and the sovereign capacity for recipient States to regulate within areas of public interest, the international community could consider, as appropriate, a further elaboration of standards for investment in areas that directly impact domestic sustainable development outcomes, and ensure that investments do not undermine international human rights standards.
In general, the proliferation of bilateral investment treaties and other trade agreements covering investment issues renders the mainstreaming of a sustainable development perspective in investment regimes more difficult. Developing countries find it increasingly difficult to navigate a highly fragmented international investment regime, which also risks curtailing policy space for host countries. Steps should be explored towards a multilateral approach to international investment regimes that more adequately balances investors’ preferences with the needs of residents of the countries in which they would operate, with a view to facilitating a more holistic approach in the interest of sustainable development.
Strengthen global financial stability Since the 2007-2008 global financial and economic crisis, the international community has taken important steps to address vulnerabilities in the financial sector through regulatory reform. In these efforts and in any new regulations, regulators need to strike a judicious balance between ensuring the stability of the international financial system and allowing for adequate access to finance. A stable system is essential to support growth and prevent future crises with negative economic and social consequences. However, the unintended consequences of financial regulations may adversely impact the availability of long-term financing, and should be addressed by policymakers.
Further progress in completing and implementing the reform agenda is essential for enhancing the stability of the global financial system. Financial regulatory reform operates through international bodies that recommend rules and regulations which individual governments then adopt in national practice.
While processes of consultation have been adopted by international regulatory bodies, such as the Financial Stability Board, further steps need to be taken to enhance transparency and the adequate representation of developing country interests in the key international regulatory bodies.
It is equally important to strengthen the readiness of the international system to respond to crises. The international community should continue to review the capability of IMF and other international organizations to provide early warning and quickly take countercyclical action and equip them with adequate instruments that would improve the resilience of the global financial system.
According to input on the role of trade in financing for sustainable development, prepared by UNCTAD for the discussions of the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing.
42 Report of the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing In particular, a more stable international financial system, and a strengthened global safety net, can reduce the need for countries to stockpile international reserves. Additional research on the appropriate size of reserves, along with alternative insurance mechanisms, such as those based on regional cooperation, should be pursued.
Strengthen regional cooperation Strengthened regional cooperation can play an important role in mobilizing financial resources for sustainable development. Among other things, effective regional arrangements can provide financing for regional public goods, facilitate trade flows and attract investment into key sectors such as infrastructure.
Regional cooperation also provides excellent opportunities for information exchange and peer learning in fiscal, financial and economic affairs. In addition, the recent financial and economic crisis has directed new attention to the potential of regional financial stability mechanisms (such as the Latin American Reserve Fund or the Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralization) to serve as a first line of defence against contagion from global crises.
Enhance international cooperation on taxes International tax rules and national tax laws have not kept pace with developments in the global economy, such as highly mobile capital and the predominance of multinational enterprises in international trade and finance. Nations devise their own tax systems to meet domestic needs and have traditionally not coordinated with foreign tax authorities. This has created opportunities for multinational enterprises and international investors to evade and avoid taxes by structuring international transactions to take advantage of different national tax rules. Even when Governments cooperate and devise bilateral tax treaties, their terms differ with different partners, allowing firms to exploit the differences to their own advantage (treaty shopping). Multinational enterprises also take advantage of differences in national tax policies by mispricing intra-group transactions (transfer mispricing) and by making use of mismatches in entity and instrument characterization (hybrid mismatch).
While each country is responsible for its own tax system, international cooperation on tax policy needs strengthening. The enhancement of international tax cooperation could cover country-based reporting, notification of owners, automatic exchange of tax information, transfer pricing regulations, lists of tax havens and standards for non-economic reporting. G20 leaders have endorsed the OECD Action Plan on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting and automatic exchange of information. The United Nations, with its universal membership and legitimacy, could be a catalyst for further strengthening international cooperation in this area, working with the G20, OECD, IMF, the World Bank and relevant regional forums. To this end, a participatory and broad-based dialogue on international cooperation in tax matters should be strengthened.
Due to insufficient resources and a lack of specialized knowledge, many developing countries are at a disadvantage when dealing with tax evasion and avoidance practices. In this light, capacity development measures could increasingly focus on international taxation issues.
43 Global governance for financing sustainable development Fight illicit financial flows In addition to policies to counter transfer mispricing based on tax evasion, as discussed above, best use should be made of existing international standards and instruments in the field of anti-money-laundering (including the Financial Action Task Force and its network of regional bodies), anti-corruption (United Nations Convention against Corruption) and asset recovery (the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative).
Tax evasion, money-laundering and corruption are facilitated by jurisdictions with regulatory regimes that allow companies and individuals to effectively hide money. Both domestic actions aimed at minimizing the flow of funds to secrecy jurisdictions and international cooperation to increase financial transparency will be needed. They include exchange of information, country-by-country reporting and publicly available company beneficial ownership registers, effective implementation of the Financial Action Task Force standards and asset recovery.
Strengthen sovereign debt crisis prevention and resolution Sovereign debt crises severely impede nations’ efforts to finance sustainable development, with debt crises often leading to a spiral of capital flight, devaluations, rising interest rates and unemployment. Effective debt management to prevent debt crises is recognized as a priority. However, when crises do occur, there is an urgent need to fairly and quickly resolve them. The international community has adopted and repeatedly strengthened a comprehensive framework for resolving sovereign debt crises in a group of heavily indebted poor countries (HIPCs). For bilateral official debt, the Paris Club and its Evian approach exist to restructure
debt owed to its members. However, globally the landscape for debt has changed:
the HIPC initiative is almost completed, and sizeable debt is owed to non-Paris Club countries and the private sector.
A survey of recent international debt restructurings has shown that the market-based approach to restructure debt owed to private creditors needs further improvements.68 Many debt restructurings are considered insufficient and are often delayed, with high costs for the populations of debtor countries. Recent developments with regard to Argentina’s holdout creditors have led to a deep concern about the ability of holdout creditors to derail the success of a debt restructuring, both for developed and developing countries.
There are two alternative solutions generally proposed for handling sovereign debt restructurings: a market-based contractual approach through provisions in contracts, such as collective action clauses (CACs) in bond covenants, and a statutory approach akin to national bankruptcy regimes. In 2003, partly in response to the 2002 Argentine default, IMF proposed a Sovereign Debt Restructuring Mechanism, although there was little political support for such a mechanism at the time. Instead, the use of CACs became widespread in emerging market bond issuance. By 2005 almost 100 per cent new international bonds issued included CACs, although a large stock of bonds without CACs remains outstanding. However, some authors have found that the presence of collective IMF, “Sovereign Debt Restructuring — Recent Developments and Implications for the 68 Fund’s Legal and Policy Framework” (Washington, D.C., April 2013).
44 Report of the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing action clauses alone may not be sufficient to ensure fair and effective debt restructurings in all cases.69 The inclusion of aggregation clauses could help make CACs more effective with respect to holdout creditors.
Discussions on how to improve the framework for sovereign debt restructuring for countries in debt distress are taking place in various official forums, in policy think tanks and in the private sector. In particular, work is ongoing in the United Nations system, including in IMF, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the Secretariat and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.70 In addition, there are calls for action on an effective and fair sovereign debt restructuring and debt resolution mechanism, taking into account existing frameworks and principles, with the broad participation of creditors and debtors, and for the comparable treatment of all creditors. Given the importance of sovereign debt crisis and debt overhangs to financing sustainable development, it is important for the international community to continue ongoing efforts to enhance the existing architecture for sovereign debt restructuring. Furthermore, collaborative efforts to improve the timeliness and coverage of sovereign debt data based on both creditor and debtor reporting systems could lead to more reliable debt sustainability assessments.
Foster harmonized monitoring and accounting systems and a data revolution Strong, relevant and comparable data is the basis for improved global governance and sustainable development follow-up. Yet, current information flows, reporting standards and monitoring mechanisms are overlapping, contradicting, incomplete in coverage and often inaccessible to development actors. In order to improve the quality of statistics, it will be important to reduce the fragmentation of current reporting frameworks and initiatives and increase their harmonization.
The international community should agree on suitable monitoring frameworks for the post-2015 development agenda that keep track of sustainable development financing flows from all sources, with transparent and separate reporting for development and climate finance commitments. Efforts are also needed to work towards a harmonization and increasing integration of monitoring and accounting frameworks to consider all financing sources and their interplay at the country level. In addition, existing monitoring and reporting frameworks should be improved to avoid incentivizing the use of instruments that do not support sustainable development objectives.