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The problems surrounding landlocked countries in global market

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Being a landlocked country can create all sorts of problems, especially if it's a poor nation to begin with.

Once every decade, the UN's Economic and Social Council brings together representatives from landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) with a view to establishing a development framework.

Earlier this month, it held its latest conference in Austria - a landlocked country, but hardly one that has the same types of difficulties as ones in Africa, Asia or South America. This year, representatives from 32 landlocked developing nations, with a combined population of 440 million people, attended the meeting.

Their international trade depends on transit through other countries. "Additional border crossings and the long distance from major markets, coupled with cumbersome transit procedures and inadequate infrastructure, substantially increase the total expenses for transport and other transaction costs," noted a General Assembly report after the conference.

The president of the Economic and Social Council, Martin Sajdik, told delegates that landlocked nations need long-term solutions, and that the countries need to increasingly diversify their economies, improve their value-add and their connectivity to global value chains.

"We have an opportunity and responsibility to turn the tide towards completely eradicating poverty and enhancing economic development in LLDCs and better integrate them into the world economy," he said.

Mr Sajdik said LLDCs need to work better together. He pointed out that about 70pc of LLDCs have another landlocked developing nation as a neighbour. But 44pc also share borders with at least one of the so-called BRIC countries - Brazil, Russia, India and China - which are not only transit countries for the LLDCs, but also major trading partners.

In its post-conference report this month, the UN noted that landlocked developing countries rely heavily on a few mineral resources and low-value agricultural products for their exports to a limited number of markets, "making them highly vulnerable to commodity price and demand volatility".

So, is there a solution? No easy one, that's certain.

The conference resulted in the drafting of specific measures that delegates agreed should be taken to spur economic activit.

Among them was reducing travel time along main corridors to enable transit cargo to move between 300km and 400km in a 24-hour period.

Unsurprisingly, proposed measures include significantly increasing the quality of roads and expanding and upgrading railways.

But there are a whole lot of other measures that need to be taken, from improving energy supply and internet access to harmonising legal frameworks.

Of course, all this looks very well on paper. For poor nations, finding the resources to do these things is another hurdle altogether.

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