12:50 P.M. EDT
Q What’s your reaction to Democrats paying for the dossier?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think it’s very sad what they’ve done with this fake dossier. It was made up, and I understand they paid a tremendous amount of money, and Hillary Clinton always denied it. The Democrats always denied it. And now only because it’s going to come out in a court case, they said, yes, they did it. They admitted it, and they’re embarrassed by it.
But I think it’s a disgrace. It’s just really — it’s a very sad — it’s a very sad commentary on politics in this country.
Q Do you know which Republicans helped fund that?
Q Mr. President, (inaudible) Senator Bob Corker and his chairmanship?
THE PRESIDENT: I don’t think so. I think it’s fine the way it is. We have actually great unity in the Republican Party. Yesterday, I was —
Q (Inaudible) Bob Corker and Jeff Flake?
THE PRESIDENT: That’s okay. Look, you know they have to do their thing. We have great unity. If you look at what happened yesterday at the meeting, we had, I guess, virtually every senator, including John McCain. We had a great conversation yesterday — John McCain and myself — about the military.
I think we had a — I called it a lovefest. It was almost a lovefest. Maybe it was a lovefest. But we — standing ovations. There is great unity. If you look at the Democrats with Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, that’s a mess. There’s great unity in the Republican Party.
Q (Inaudible) this country is in the gutter right now. Do you agree with that? Do you bear any responsibility for that?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think it’s sad. But I think to a large extent, in all due respect, I think the media causes a lot of it. Fake stories are being reported. A lot of bad things are being reported that aren’t true, and I think to a certain extent, maybe I can blame the media.
But politics is a rough business. There’s no question about it. I will say this: I think the Republican Party has a pretty good unity. When I looked at that room yesterday at lunch — and you know, and you reported on it very well, Kristen. You gave it a very good report. The fact is there was tremendous unity in that room, and we’re really unified. We’re really unified on what we want to do.
We want tax cuts for the middle class. We want tax cuts for businesses to produce jobs. There’s great unity.
Q What about Senator Flake saying you are a danger to democracy?
THE PRESIDENT: Look, he was against me from before he ever knew me. He wrote a book about me before I ever met him, before I ever heard his name. His poll numbers in Arizona are so low that he couldn’t win, and I don’t blame him for leaving. I think he did the right thing for himself.
But if you know, long before he ever knew me, during the campaign, even before the campaign — I mean, he came out with this horrible book, and I said, who is this guy?
In fact, I remembered the first time I saw him on television I had not really been — nobody knew me in terms of politics. But the first time I saw him on television, I said, I assume he’s a Democrat. Is he a Democrat? They said he’s a Republican. I said, that’s impossible.
So, look, his poll numbers are terrible. He’s done terribly for the great people of Arizona, a state that likes Donald Trump very much as even you will admit. And he would have never won. In fact, even in the primary, he’s way down in the primary. So he did the smart thing for himself. This way he can get out somewhat gracefully. But —
Q What about the comments that you’re (inaudible).
THE PRESIDENT: Well, he’s saying that — he’s saying that because he has nothing else to say.
But I do think this — I do think this: I wish him well. I really believe he’s going to do the right thing for the country. He’s going to vote for tax cuts because we desperately need tax cuts to put our people back to work. We need tax cuts also to be able to compete with other countries.
Q (Inaudible) Bob Corker — “liddle” Bob Corker?
THE PRESIDENT: You know what, I hope Bob — and I really believe that Bob Corker is going to do the right thing also.
Yes, go ahead.
Q (Inaudible), Mr. President — do you feel like that’s (inaudible)?
THE PRESIDENT: I can’t hear you. I can’t — what? Say it again.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Senator Flake did vote with me. I understand it was about 91 or even more than that. So from that standpoint, good.
No, I think I’ll be boosted in Arizona because he’s very unpopular. I think the fact that he did it the way he did it probably — I mean, I’m very high in Arizona. I love the people; they like me. They like security at the border. You know, all of the things.
But I think I’m probably helped greatly in Arizona by what happened with Senator Flake.
THE PRESIDENT: I don’t think they’d do that. I really know that they want tax cuts. They know we need it. We need it for the country, we need it for the people, we need if for the middle class, we need it for jobs. I don’t think they’d do that. I really don’t.
I know them well enough. I don’t know Flake very well, but I know Bob Corker. I think they really would do it. I think they feel they have to do it for the country.
THE PRESIDENT: Say it?
Q (Inaudible) Democrats?
THE PRESIDENT: I think we’re going to get some Democrat votes, yeah. I do believe — I haven’t started the process, but I believe that there are certain Democrats that, if they don’t vote for these massive tax cuts for business, for jobs, and for the middle class, they will lose their races in ’18.
Q Mr. President, should you be more civil (inaudible)?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think the press makes me more uncivil than I am. You know, people don’t understand — I went to an Ivy League college, I was a nice student, I did very well, I’m a very intelligent person.
The fact is, I think — I really believe — I think the press creates a different image of Donald Trump than the real person.
Q In that vein, Mr. President, would you ever apologize to Sergeant La David Johnson’s wife?
Q When is it okay for you to (inaudible) your punches —
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think it’s always okay — when somebody says something about you that’s false, I think it’s always okay to counterpunch or to fight back.
Q You have talked, Mr. President, about the idea that any changes to tax-free contributions to 401(k)s are off the table. That was the source of your spat —
THE PRESIDENT: I wanted to end that quickly. 401(k)s, to me, are very important. And they’re important because that’s one of the great benefits to the middle class. I didn’t want that to go too far. That’s why I ended it very quickly.
Q But Kevin Brady, who is the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said this morning it could be on the table.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, maybe it is, and maybe we’ll use it as negotiating. But trust me, that’s one of the great things. You know, there are certain elements of deals you don’t want to negotiate with. 401(k)s — and Kevin knows it, and I think Kevin Brady is fantastic, but he knows how important 401(k)s are.
Q You told me last week you thought that the uranium sale to Russia was one of the big stories of the decade. Three congressional committees are now looking at that. We haven’t heard you comment on it since those investigations were launched.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think the uranium sale to Russia and the way it was done, so underhanded, with tremendous amounts of money being passed — I actually think that’s Watergate, modern age.
Q Mr. President, what more do you want to know about the mission in Niger? And what have you asked the Pentagon to tell you and tell the country?
THE PRESIDENT: Say it again, please.
Q What more do you want to know about the mission in Niger? And what have you asked the Pentagon to tell you and tell the country about what went wrong?
THE PRESIDENT: I can’t —
Q What more do you want to know about the mission in Niger —
Q And what went wrong, and what do you want the country to know about that.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we’re going to look at it. Now, I have to say, we are decimating ISIS in the Middle East. What’s happening is, they’ll go to parts of Africa, they’ll go to other places. When they get there, we meet them. It’s a dangerous business — I have to say, it’s a dangerous business. So what —
THE PRESIDENT: No, I didn’t. Not specifically. But I have generals that are great generals. These are great fighters. These are warriors and —
Q You gave them authority to do this mission.
THE PRESIDENT: I gave them authority to do what’s right so that we win. That’s the authority they have. I want to win and we’re going to win, and we’re beating ISIS very badly. You look at what’s happened in the Middle East — we have done more in eight months than the previous administration has done in many years.
Now, what happens is, you decimate them and that’s all we’ve done. We have decimated ISIS in the Middle East. They go to Africa, they go to places. When they get there, we meet them there. That’s what goes on. It’s a tough business. It’s a tough war, but we are winning it. And you know what? We’re going to continue winning it.
With that being said, my generals and my military, they have decision-making ability. As far as the incident that we’re talking about, I’ve been seeing it just like you’ve been seeing it. I’ve been getting reports. They have to meet the enemy and they meet them tough, and that’s what happens.
Q Did Sergeant Johnson’s wife (inaudible). Would you ever apologize to her?
THE PRESIDENT: I was extremely nice to her. She sounds like a lovely lady. I’ve never seen her. I’ve never met her, but she sounds likes a lovely lady. But I was extremely nice to her. I was extremely courteous, as I was to everyone else.
You know, it’s interesting, you folks have called many people that I spoke to. Everybody has said unbelievable, good thing about me, but you never report that.
Q We reported that.
Q Mr. President, but she was really upset by your phone call —
THE PRESIDENT: Did you report it? Did you report it?
Q We have reported that. You’ve talked about the —
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
Q You’re welcome. But what about your —
THE PRESIDENT: I can only say this: I was really nice to her. I respect her. I respect her family. I certainly respect La David, who — I, by the way, called La David right from the beginning. Just so you understand, they put a chart in front — “La David.” It says, La David Johnson.
So I called right from the beginning. There’s no hesitation. One of the great memories of all time. There was no hesitation. I think she’s a fantastic woman. I was extremely nice to her, extremely respectful.
Q You made four phone calls to four different families that day. Did you say anything different to Myeshia Johnson than you did to any of the other three families?
THE PRESIDENT: I would say, basically, we talked condolence. I mean, it’s all about condolence, it’s about warmth. In many cases you listen, because in so many cases — one of the families, they were saying, yes, he was a great football star.
And honestly, they pour their heart out, John. It’s the hardest calls. They pour their heart out. But I am always — and look, you people have called many people that I’ve spoken to, and every one of them has said I couldn’t have been nicer. Now, it’s a rough time for these people. I mean, how tough is it? There’s nothing tougher. But I have such respect for those families. Nobody has more respect than I do — nobody.
Q In the budget deal in December, do you want DACA in that?
THE PRESIDENT: We’re looking at DACA. We have to get something for it, but we are looking at DACA. And we’ll see what happens. I would love to do a DACA deal, but we have to get something very substantial for it, including the wall, including security, including a strong border. We have to be able to stop drugs from pouring into our nation.
Q On taxes, sir, you talk about what the American people will get out of your tax plan. Why not tell them how it will affect you by releasing your taxes?
THE PRESIDENT: The tax plan is going to be incredible for this country. It’s going to bring back jobs, it’s going to cut taxes tremendously. We’re going to bring back $4 trillion, I think at least from overseas. That money is going to be put back to work in our country instead of other countries. The tax cut is going to be massive. It’s going to keep companies from leaving our country. So important.
Q Have any of your family members or advisors been interviewed by the special counsel?
THE PRESIDENT: Not that I know of, no.
Q Have you been contacted —
THE PRESIDENT: And I have to say, the whole Russian thing is what it’s turned out to be. This was the Democrats coming up with an excuse for losing an election. It’s an election that’s very hard for a Democrat to lose because the Electoral College is set in such a way that it’s very hard to lose that election for a Democrat. They lost it. They lost it very badly and very easily.
I mean, you look at the votes; it was 306 to what — 223 or something. They lost it by a lot. They didn’t know what to say, so they made up the whole Russia hoax. Now it’s turning out that the hoax has turned around. And you look at what’s happened with Russia, and you look at the uranium deal, and you look at the fake dossier. So that’s all turned around.
Q (Inaudible), yes or no?
THE PRESIDENT: No, not at all.
THE PRESIDENT: No. We have a very good relationship. Honestly, when you look at — when you take a look at what’s happened with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, and the hatred and the division and the animosity — I’ll tell you what, honestly, the Republicans are very, very well united.
Q Opioids —
THE PRESIDENT: We’re going to have a big meeting on opioids tomorrow. We’re going to be doing a very, very important meeting sometime in the very short — the very near future on opioids, in terms of declaring a national emergency, which gives us power to do things that you can’t do right now.
Q This Fusion GPS investigation began on the Republican side of things during the primary. Do you have any idea who it was who was collecting opposition data on you?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, they say it began with the Republicans. I think I would know, but I won’t say. It’ll be determined. It’ll be determined.
Look, Hillary would have never announced it was them, except for this great court case that’s going on where the judge was going to reveal it. So they figured, we’ll do it first. They’re very embarrassed by it. It’s a disgrace. Yes, it might have started with the Republicans early on in the primaries. I think I would know, but let’s find out who it is. I’m sure that will come out.
Q Do you know who those Republicans are?
THE PRESIDENT: I think I would have, if I were to guess, I have one name in mind.
Q What’s the name?
THE PRESIDENT: It will probably be revealed.
Q The DMZ. Yes or no, are you going? Yes or no?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I’d rather not say but you’ll be surprised.
1:05 P.M. EDT
1. President of the United States of America Donald J. Trump hosted Prime Minister of the Republic of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong at the White House today. They affirmed the strong and enduring partnership between the two countries based on mutually beneficial cooperation, especially in the economic, defense, security, and people-to-people spheres.
2. The two leaders noted the important role that the bilateral United States-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (FTA) has played in strengthening the robust economic relations between the United States and Singapore and in expanding trade, enhancing prosperity, and promoting broader relations for the benefit of both countries. Bilateral trade has almost doubled from pre-FTA levels to reach more than $68 billion in 2016, with a consistent trade surplus for the United States. The United States is the largest foreign investor in Singapore, and American companies use Singapore as a regional hub for their activities. Conversely, Singapore is among the largest investors from Asia in the United States. Both leaders noted the success of the United States-Singapore FTA, which is reviewed regularly to evaluate performance and resolve bilateral issues.
3. The leaders highlighted the strong commercial relationship between the two countries, demonstrated by the signing for the purchase of 39 Boeing wide-body aircraft by Singapore Airlines (SIA), valued at $13.8 billion. The order will expand and modernize SIA’s fleet to support the increasing demand of business and tourism-related travels, while rewarding innovation and creating jobs in the United States. They acknowledged the expanded commercial cooperation achieved under the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding on e-Commerce, Smart Cities, Infrastructure and Financial Technology (FinTech).
4. The two leaders affirmed their close and long-standing defense ties as a cornerstone of bilateral relations. Singapore hosts the rotational deployment of United States military aircraft and U.S. Navy ships to conduct a variety of maritime patrol activities to counter piracy and terrorism, as well as provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in the region. Singapore trains approximately 1,000 military personnel in the United States each year, including those stationed at training detachments for the Republic of Singapore Air Force’s F-15SG and F-16C/D fighter aircraft, CH-47 Chinook and AH-64 Apache helicopters, and the Singapore Army’s High Mobility Artillery Rocket System. Singapore has signed more than $5.8 billion worth of defense contracts with U.S. companies in the past three years, and the Royal Singapore Air Force (RSAF) recently received a delivery of F-15SG fighter jets from Boeing. President Trump thanked Prime Minister Lee for the deployment of four of Singapore’s Chinook helicopters to assist in Hurricane Harvey relief operations in Texas, and Singapore’s search-and-rescue assistance following the August USS John S. McCain tragedy.
5. Both leaders expressed deep concern about the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) continued development of its unlawful nuclear and ballistic missile programs, which pose a grave threat to international peace and security. They condemned the DPRK’s missile launches and nuclear tests, which are in clear violation of UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs). The leaders reaffirmed their commitment to fully implement the DPRK UNSCRs and to consider additional measures to compel the DPRK regime to engage in meaningful dialogue about a different future.
6. The two leaders recognized the grave threat posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, and affirmed that urgent action is needed to address this danger. Both sides welcomed Singapore’s efforts in non-proliferation and strategic trade control initiatives, such as through its trial of the World Customs Organization’s Cargo Targeting System to strengthen global supply chain security, and decided to consider exploring new areas of cooperation to prevent the global transportation sector from being abused by proliferators. The United States also welcomed Singapore’s continued support for the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), such as Singapore’s hosting of the PSI exercise Deep Sabre in late 2016, and the PSI Operational Expert Groups meeting in August 2017.
7. The two leaders pledged to strengthen cooperation to counter the threat of ISIS and reaffirmed the need for all countries to stand shoulder-to-shoulder against the common scourge of global terrorism. They welcomed the upcoming bilateral Law Enforcement and Homeland Security and Safety Cooperation Dialogue. As a partner in the fight against ISIS and the first and only Asian country to have contributed both assets and personnel to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, President Trump welcomed Singapore’s commitment to extend its existing contributions to the Coalition, including the deployment of a medical task force in Iraq, KC-135R tanker aircraft, and an Imagery Analysis Team.
8. Recognizing the transboundary nature of cybersecurity threats, the two leaders affirmed the progress made under the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding on Cybersecurity Cooperation. Both countries affirmed their commitment to work together during Singapore’s 2018 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Chairmanship to secure the digital economy as a key engine for future economic growth.
9. The two leaders supported expanding economic ties through closer cooperation on bilateral tax issues and welcomed continued progress towards the signing of a tax information exchange agreement and a reciprocal intergovernmental agreement to implement the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act. The negotiations have been substantially completed, and both sides are committed to sign the two agreements as soon as possible, with the aim of doing so by the end of the year. The leaders noted the two countries would continue discussions on whether to negotiate an Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement in the future, taking into account double taxation with respect to both American investments in Singapore and Singaporean investments in the United States and our mutual interest in avoiding base erosion and profit shifting by multinationals.
10. Both leaders affirmed the strong bonds of friendship and cooperation between the peoples of the two countries. They welcomed the continuation of the United States-Singapore Summer Exchange Scholarship Program to foster linkages and new ideas for cooperation between the next generation of young leaders. The two leaders recognized the success of the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) and looked forward to YSEALI events in the future.
11. Both leaders noted concerns about developments in the South China Sea (SCS). They reaffirmed the importance of safeguarding peace and stability, and they reiterated their commitment to upholding freedoms of navigation and overflight, and other lawful uses of the sea. Consonant with the Sunnylands Declaration, both leaders underscored the importance of the peaceful resolution of disputes, including full respect for legal and diplomatic processes, in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. They also reiterated their support for the expeditious conclusion of an effective and binding Code of Conduct in the SCS.
12. The two leaders expressed concern about the humanitarian situation in Rakhine State and on the border between Myanmar and Bangladesh. Both leaders called for the expeditious delivery of humanitarian assistance to all affected communities, and urged the government of Myanmar to end the violence, ensure the safe, voluntary and dignified repatriation, resettlement, and rehabilitation of displaced persons, and implement in the shortest time possible the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State. They expressed their support for ASEAN’s role in working with the government of Myanmar to provide humanitarian assistance to all affected communities.
13. The two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to ASEAN centrality and the importance of strengthening the regional architecture to effectively address common transnational challenges such as maritime security, cybersecurity, and countering violent extremism. Both sides highlighted the importance of the U.S.-ASEAN strategic partnership and the principles underpinning this relationship, as outlined in the 2016 Sunnylands Declaration. They welcomed the 50th anniversary of ASEAN’s founding and the 40th anniversary of United States-ASEAN relations and committed to continuing support for joint contributions to the Third Country Training Program aimed at enhancing connectivity and regional resilience. President Trump looks forward to attending the November multilateral summits in Southeast Asia and offered his full support for Singapore’s ASEAN Chairmanship in 2018.
14. President Trump warmly accepted Prime Minister Lee’s invitation to visit Singapore in 2018, and they both recognized Singapore’s steadfast partnership on issues of mutual interest and shared principles. Singapore has been an anchor for the presence of the United States in the Indo-Pacific, underpinning regional peace and prosperity for the common benefit of the region and the United States.
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
3:51 P.M. EDT
MS. SANDERS: Good afternoon.
Q Good afternoon!
MS. SANDERS: All right, yeah.
President Trump had a productive meeting at today’s Republican Senate Caucus. The President discussed the urgent need for the Senate to focus on cutting taxes for hardworking American families. We must also make American companies more competitive so they can create more jobs and boost wages for American workers. And we must simplify the burdensome tax code that is currently rigged in favor of the wealthy and well connected.
As the President tweeted this morning, the market continues to hit historic highs, and unemployment is at a 16-year low. There is a spirit of economic optimism sweeping the nation, but our economy cannot take off like it should unless we deliver historic tax cuts and reforms. This is the President’s top legislative priority, and he was encouraged today by the show of unity by Republicans on the Hill about getting this done.
During the policy lunch, the President also discussed the urgent need for the Senate to confirm his slate of eminently qualified nominees, in spite of Democratic obstruction, so that they can get work on behalf of the American people. The President will continue to work closely with the Senate to deliver on a legislative agenda that puts the interests of the American people first.
This morning, the President welcomed winners of the Minority Enterprise Development Week awards. This awards program is designed to celebrate the outstanding achievements of minority entrepreneurs, as well as individuals and organizations that are leading the way in advancing minority business enterprise.
The award winners who visited the White House certainly meet that criteria, and the President was proud to host them. He’s laser-focused on building an economy that works for all Americans and delivering tax cuts and reforms for these hardworking entrepreneurs by the end of the year.
On the national security and foreign policy front, for the eighth time, Russia has blocked U.N. Security Council action to hold accountable those who use chemical weapons, including terrorists and the Assad regime. By blocking the extension of the Joint Investigative Mechanism, Russia has once again demonstrated it does not care about stopping the barbaric use of chemical weapons in the world and will do whatever it takes to protect its ally, the Assad regime.
Blocking the extension of the investigating authority means nothing less than Russia’s endorsement of the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons against innocent women and children. We will continue to push back against this.
And with that, I’ll take your questions.
Q Sarah, President Trump previously tweeted that Jeff Flake is a very weak and ineffective senator. Do you know if he has any reaction to Flake announcing that he won’t seek reelection?
MS. SANDERS: I haven’t spoken with him directly since the announcement by Senator Flake, but I think that based on previous statements and certainly based on the lack of support that he has from the people of Arizona, it’s probably a good move.
Q Thanks, Sarah. We have two Republican senators now, just today — Senators Corker and Flake — calling the President’s behavior unacceptable and dangerous, saying that he regularly tells untruths. Senator Flake just called on his fellow Republicans to end what he called complicity and accommodation. I’m wondering, what’s the White House’s response to this criticism coming from two Republican senators?
MS. SANDERS: I think that we support the American people on this. I think that the people both in Tennessee and Arizona supported this President, and I don’t think that the numbers are in the favor of either of those two senators in their states. And so I think that this was probably the right decision.
Q Sarah, why is the President involved in this feud with Senator Corker? Because there’s some concern on Capitol Hill that what you should be focused on is getting your agenda of tax reform through, and that petty feuds like this just distract from the bigger issue. So why is the President engaging in this?
MS. SANDERS: Look, the President is focused on doing this. That’s what he spent the majority of his day talking about. He went to the Hill and met with Republican senators to talk about tax reform, to push his legislative agenda. That’s what he’s spending a good bit of this week doing and will continue doing next week until we get the job done.
Q But why does he engage like this?
MS. SANDERS: Look, you’ve got an individual in the President — he’s a fighter. We’ve said it many times before. The people of this country didn’t elect somebody to be weak; they elected somebody to be strong. And when he gets hit, he’s going to hit back. And I think Senator Corker knows that, and he’s maybe trying to get a headline or two on his way out the door.
Q Thanks a lot, Sarah. Since the President has taken office, as you know, two Republican senators, Senator Corker of Tennessee and Senator Flake of Arizona, have both announced they’re not running for reelection. In your view, is the President remaking the Republican Party? And if he’s doing that, is he remaking it in a positive way?
MS. SANDERS: I wouldn’t say necessarily he’s remaking it because you have a couple of individuals that are no longer running for office. Look, he’s got a great relationship with a number of Republican senators. He’s going to continue working with them and make sure that we get things done for the American people.
He wants people to be in the Senate that are committed to actually moving the ball down the field, and I don’t think these two individuals necessarily have been as focused on that. The President wants to get things done, and that’s what we’re going to work through, through the fall.
Q Sarah, I understand that neither of these two senators that we’re talking about now have been allies, to say the least, of the President. But this has been an extraordinary series of attacks on the President from major figures in the Republican Party, not typical political attacks. I mean, saying that the President is responsible for the debasement of the nation, that a breakdown of civility is the fault of the President, and that enough is enough.
We’ve seen similar remarks from John McCain, the party’s former nominee. In any of this — does any of this make the President pause and wonder if he is doing anything wrong; that he bears any responsibility for what these senators are saying is a breakdown of civility in our country?
MS. SANDERS: Look, I think the voters of these individual senator’s states are speaking in pretty loud volumes. I think that they were not likely to be reelected, and I think that shows that the support is more behind this President than it is those two individuals.
Q Why is there so little pushback from other Republican senators on this? I mean, Mitch McConnell is the Republican Leader. Bob Corker is still a committee chairman. Should there be —
MS. SANDERS: Look, Leader McConnell stood with the President just last week here at the White House and talked about how they were working together, how they were getting things done, how they were focused on actually moving the agenda forward. And so I think that’s a pretty clear indication of where his support lies and what we’re working to do.
Q If I could just pick up on what Jon was talking about. One of the criticisms from Senator Corker today was the idea that history will most remember President Trump for “debasing” the country. And you hear, in Senator Flake’s remarks, the idea that he seemed to be writing it for history. How do you think history will view not only the remarks of the two senators today, but also former President Bush last week?
MS. SANDERS: I certainly think history is going to look at this President as somebody who helped defeat ISIS, who built an economy that was stronger than it’s been in several decades, who brought unemployment to a 16-year low, who’s created over 1.7 million jobs since being elected.
I think those are the things that people actually care about, not some petty comments from Senator Corker and Senator Flake. And I think they’re a lot more concerned about the big policy initiatives that this President is driving, including historic tax cuts, which we’re going to get done by the end of this year, and then start focusing on some other things.
Those are the things this President will be remembered by, and I think those are pretty good — certainly good facts, and ones that we’re happy to standby.
Q Thank you, Sarah. The President at lunch today asked the senators for a show of hands on two candidates for Fed Chair, Jerome Powell and John Taylor. Since being that Powell and Taylor are the President’s favorites for the Fed Chairmanship, why would he ask input from the Senate on this?
MS. SANDERS: Those are certainly individuals that he’s looking at. And as we’ve said, we don’t have any announcements on that at this time. But the President is taking that decision extremely seriously, and he’s being very thorough in the process. And he’ll have an announcement on it soon.
Q Sarah, is the White House concerned at all that these conflicts, which keep escalating, could impact the President’s agenda? In specific, it could — for example, Senator Corker, if the President continues to lash out at him like this, could that prompt him to do things that would be detrimental to the tax cut?
MS. SANDERS: I would hope that Senator Corker is more focused on getting things done in his final months. And so we hope that he’ll be very supportive of the tax cuts and tax reforms that the people in his state have demanded and, frankly, elected him to go to Congress and help do.
Q Sarah, may I pick up on that? Because the President, in two different tweets today, had said that Senator Corker was fighting tax cuts — those were his words — will now fight tax cuts and is now fighting tax cuts. But there’s been nothing public from Senator Corker that he might be against tax cuts. So what exactly was the President suggesting or referring to there in those tweets? Has Senator Corker privately told the President or the White House that he’s against tax cuts?
MS. SANDERS: I don’t know that he said he’s against them, but he’s certainly indicated his unwillingness, at this point, to really step forward and work with the administration on getting things done. We hope that he will come around and certainly vote for tax cuts as the people in his state have demanded and requested and pushed for him to do such.
Q Does the White House think that Flake, McCain, and Corker will eventually vote for tax cuts — all three of them — because you need all three of them?
MS. SANDERS: I certainly think America hopes they do.
Q Thank you, Sarah. Last week, I asked you if the President wanted Senator Corker to resign, and you didn’t want to go there. In light of everything that has happened since, has the White House changed its position on that? And at the very least, does the President think that Senator Corker should step down as head of the Foreign Relations Committee? Especially since Senator Corker told CNN today, and I quote, that he “wants to investigate some of the things that he is purposefully breaking down” — he, being President Trump.
MS. SANDERS: Look, I think that’s a decision for Leader McConnell in terms of who has those chairmanships. That’s not something for the President to determine.
Q The President doesn’t think that he should step down or that he should resign?
MS. SANDERS: I haven’t spoken to him specifically about that. But in terms of how the chairmanships are decided, that would be up to Leader McConnell.
Q Thank you, Sarah. Two questions. There is currently a contested primary for Senator Corker’s seat; Congresswomen Blackburn facing former Congressman Fincher. And it’s almost inevitable there will be a contested primary in Arizona; Dr. Ward not going to be left to get the nomination. Will the President make any role in the nomination process there?
MS. SANDERS: As I’ve said many times before from the podium, I’m not going to weigh in on any political races and whether or not the President will engage. It’s not appropriate for me to do from here.
Q The other thing, Sarah, is that in his penultimate salvo on Twitter, the President said that Senator Corker asked him to be Secretary of State, and he refused the request. That’s a pretty serious claim because no one really has been proven to have asked for a job in modern times like that. Did Senator Corker actually ask the President to be his Secretary of State?
MS. SANDERS: That’s my understanding, but I don’t know much beyond those initial comments.
Q Is the President confident that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can pull the Senate Caucus together?
MS. SANDERS: Yes, he is, and he thinks that we’re going to work together with Republican senators, particularly Leader McConnell, to get tax cuts and tax reforms done this year.
Q Why does the White House, and the President specifically, continue to say that Senator Bob Corker helped President Obama on the Iran Deal, when the facts clearly say that’s not true?
MS. SANDERS: Actually, the facts do say that it’s true. It was Senator Corker who wrote the INARA legislation that legitimized the Iran nuclear deal. Despite lacking the votes to ratify the flawed Iran Deal as a treaty in the Senate, Corker’s bill rolled out the red carpet for the Obama administration gaining congressional approval without the necessary votes. He may not have voted for it, but he certainly helped make it happen.
Q But he didn’t vote for it.
MS. SANDERS: But he helped allow it to take place.
Q And the Washington Post has given four Pinocchios on this. If you look through, Senator Corker says it’s a lie.
MS. SANDERS: And as I’ve said many times before, I wouldn’t use the Washington Post as my source, Jeff. You should know better than that.
Q Exactly. But this is true. When you go back and look through, the White House clearly is not telling the truth on this. Why does the President continue to say that he helped President Obama with it?
MS. SANDERS: Because he did.
Q It’s just not true. He voted against it though, Sarah.
MS. SANDERS: He voted against it, but he allowed it to happen. He put it in motion, he rolled out the red carpet, and he made it possible for it to move forward. That is a fact and that is true.
Q Sarah, what do President Trump’s advisors advise him about his use of Twitter? And on a separate, unrelated issue, is the President seeking to kill a deal between Boeing — or Boeing’s deal to sell planes to Iran Air?
MS. SANDERS: On the first one, I would say in regards to Twitter, as I’ve stated several times before from here, it’s always a benefit for the President to be able to speak directly to the American people without any filter, without any bias. I think that’s a positive thing. I think it’s one of the reasons that the President is president, is because he often goes directly to the American people, speaks directly to them. And I think that’s a plus.
And the second question — I’m not aware of that. Any detailed conversations, I couldn’t weigh into that right now.
Q Sarah, on Niger — and I’m not going to ask you to talk about the ongoing investigation, but I do want to say: The commander of U.S. forces in Africa told Congress last March that he had only a quarter of the reconnaissance flights needed to do his job, and, in fact, that did impact search-and-rescue missions.
Is the White House concerned that U.S. forces in Africa do not have adequate resources and that that could have contributed to what happened in Niger? And has there been any outreach by the White House to Nigerian officials?
MS. SANDERS: As always, the safety and security of our military is a top priority. In terms of specifics, we’re going to wait until that investigation is completed. As General Dunford said yesterday, we’re going to make sure that we get full and adequate answers for not just the American people, but for the families of those that were lost. And we’re going to continue to do that. The administration fully supports the Department of Defense in that process.
Q And has there been outreach from the White House to Niger?
MS. SANDERS: I’m not sure. I’d have to check and circle back.
Q Sarah, back on Niger, an offshoot — the widow of Sergeant La David Johnson is concerned that there may not be remains in his coffin. What does this White House say as she is not able to get anything more than dog tags as it relates to trying to put to rest all of those?
MS. SANDERS: My understanding is that the family can request to see those remains, and that would be a process handled through the Department of Defense and the casualty officer. And I would refer you to the Department of Defense for specifics on that.
Q And one last piece on another subject really fast. Beyond personality — beyond the President’s personality, beyond Flake, beyond Corker, beyond McCain, at issue there is a divide, be it in the nation, be it in your own party. When is there an effort to unify? Because you have people saying, in their own party, in the President’s party, that the President is not helping to pave the way and the path that the President is taking is wrong? When is there an effort for this President to start unifying not just within the party, but with the country because there are so many divides?
MS. SANDERS: Yeah, every day there is an effort to unify. I think you see that in the policy initiatives that this President is pushing — tax cuts that affect everyone, particularly the middle class. I think that’s something everyone should be able to rally around. Whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, that should be something that brings everybody together.
You look at the defeat of ISIS, you look at the growth of the economy, you look at unemployment — these are all things that should bring our country together and certainly things that this President has been focused on and will continue to be focused on moving forward.
Q Sarah, the President is likening his tax cuts to what Reagan did. But as we all know, after those 1981 cuts, there were a series of tax increases, including the Social Security payroll tax increase, which affected middle-class Americans.
Today, Social Security’s situation — fiscal situation — is far more dire. What does the President have to say about his intentions when it comes to these entitlements once these tax cuts go through?
MS. SANDERS: Look, the President said that he did not want to impact Social Security and wanted to make sure that we protected that. The biggest thing he’s focused on right now, though, are those tax cuts and making sure that they’re permanent tax cuts that really impact and help the middle class. And that’s his biggest priority.
Q Is he still planning no changes?
MS. SANDERS: Cecilia.
Q No changes?
MS. SANDERS: Not at this time, no.
Q The three Republican senators have hit at the same theme that there is this degradation of civility in American politics. And we’ve also heard that from three past Presidents in recent days. So does this White House agree with that sentiment, that there is a lack of civility in the conversation happening in this country right now from American politicians? And does this President bear any responsibility for that?
MS. SANDERS: Look, I think as I’ve said before, we can all always do better. And we’re looking at ways every single day, as I just told April, to bring the country together, to focus on policies that really help people, really empower people, and do that for all Americans. That’s this President’s — what he laid out on the campaign, and that’s what he’s been focused on since he became President.
Q Thank you, Sarah. I wanted to ask you about the President’s tweet in which he called Pastor Robert Jeffress a “wonderful man.” Given that there are 70 million American Catholics, why would he say that about somebody who’s so viciously anti-Catholic?
MS. SANDERS: I’m not aware of Robert Jeffress being anti-Catholic. I know that he engages with the Catholics in his home state on a regular basis to participate in events like the March for Life. Those are the only actions I’ve seen him participate in, so I couldn’t comment any further on that.
Q Sarah, thank you. One of the aspects of civil discourse is for people in the discussion to acknowledge when they’ve made misstatements. And there’s a pattern in this White House and with the President that when they make misstatements, those are not corrected. For example, the Chief of Staff came out here at this podium and mischaracterized the speech by a congresswoman given at an FBI building dedication. Why won’t the Chief of Staff or you, right now, acknowledge that that was a mischaracterization and correct the record?
MS. SANDERS: I don’t believe that General Kelly mischaracterized. He gave his account of what took place. General Kelly and his family have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. I think he’s led with honor and integrity. I think he’s doing a great job of Chief of Staff, and I don’t think he has anything to correct or apologize for.
Q Just to follow up on that, why wouldn’t — even if President Trump meant to console the widow of Sergeant Johnson, why hasn’t he or anyone from the White House apologized for how she took his call? She took his call as insensitive.
MS. SANDERS: Look, the President was making the point that his call was meant to be respectful, sympathetic, and the purpose was to offer condolences on behalf of the nation.
Q Sarah, two quick questions for you. You talked about the President’s big policy initiatives, that that will be how history judges him. Obviously, so far right now, he has none that have made it through the legislative process on Capitol Hill. He wants to get taxes done. Bob Corker —
MS. SANDERS: That’s not true. Neil Gorsuch went through a legislative process. I would say that’s a pretty big historical moment.
Q I don’t know that that’s a policy initiative.
MS. SANDERS: Something that has a lasting legacy, probably far beyond most any other individual piece of legislation, is how the courts can shape and determine a lot of different things. And I think you’ll see that in Justice Gorsuch.
Q So then to finish that first question, then. You talk about — when we talk about policy initiatives, like — I’m thinking of healthcare or, for example, tax reform — that have not been completed, at least not yet, on Capitol Hill, the lack of support from somebody like Bob Corker might make that a lot more difficult. Given that, does the President feel like he’s winning?
MS. SANDERS: I think he feels like America is winning. I think if you look at some of the progress that’s taken place in the first nine months, despite the fact that the Congress has done very little up until this point, the President has gotten rid of nearly 1,000 regulations that have paved the way for massive job creation and job growth in this country.
We’re looking at a booming economy. I think those are things that people actually care about. We’re looking at the defeat of ISIS; something that this President has led on and worked with our coalition forces to help do.
He’s created better relationships with countries around the globe. He has bolstered the relationship with NATO and had other countries encouraged in the growth of the amount of money that other countries are participating in that.
The historic moment that we saw with the President on his first foreign trip when he was in Saudi Arabia and he spoke in front of nearly 60 Muslim-majority countries. These are historic moments that he has done without Congress. Imagine how incredible and how many good things we would be doing if people like Senator Bob Corker got on board and started doing their job instead of doing so much grandstanding on TV.
Q So then does the President believe, Sarah, that there should be —
MS. SANDERS: Jake.
Q My second question, Sarah: Given those comments, does the President believe there should be a loyalty test for Republican senators? Does he demand — you’ve mentioned several times before —
MS. SANDERS: I think that their loyalty should be to the American people and to the agenda that those people elected them to carry out.
Q Well, Bob Corker and Jeff Flake say that is where their loyalty lies.
MS. SANDERS: Well, I hope we’ll see that in their votes.
Q So Sarah, I just want to —
MS. SANDERS: Dave. I’m sorry, Hallie, I got to move on.
Q Did the President have any reaction today to Chairman Nunes’s announcement that he’s going to open an investigation into the Obama administration’s deal to allow a Russian company to obtain U.S. uranium?
MS. SANDERS: I haven’t spoken with him directly about that but I certainly think it is a move in the right direction, and something that we’ve spoken about several times here — that if there was any collusion whatsoever during the campaigns of any point — or any collusion at any point with another country, that they should look at the Clintons. And so I think that’s the right thing.
Q Sarah —
MS. SANDERS: Ronica. Sorry, go ahead.
Q Sarah, thank you. So, the President regularly highlights the success of the stock market in his tweets, but only about 50 percent of Americans are invested in the stock market. And earlier today, I spoke with Grover Norquist, a prominent conservative voice pushing for tax reform. I mean, he characterizes the economy, and says — he says, “The economy itself still sucks.”
So what’s your reaction to that, and for those people who aren’t benefiting from the success of the market right now?
MS. SANDERS: Well, I think there’s also a lot of other things beyond just the stock market. The fact the unemployment levels have dropped, that’s certainly a big thing. The fact that 1.7 million new jobs have been created since Donald Trump was elected. Those are all positive things in the economy.
We didn’t say it was completely fixed and that — but we’re certainly moving in the right direction. I think we’ve been more successful in these first nine months than Obama was in eight years.
Q Sarah, I have two questions. One is, we understand that when the President gets hit, he hits back, but what is he trying to accomplish when he says that Bob Corker couldn’t win a race for dogcatcher? What is he trying to accomplish?
MS. SANDERS: Look, I think that the President is voicing the frustration that probably you see from a lot of people in the state of Tennessee, which is why Senator Corker’s numbers are where they are.
Q Okay, my second question is, can you point to any votes that Flake and Corker took that were against the President’s agenda?
MS. SANDERS: I’m sorry?
Q Can you point to any votes that Flake and Corker took that were against the President’s agenda?
MS. SANDERS: I’d have to look detailed into their voting records. So I’ll check on that.
Q I don’t think there are any.
Q You said before that Senator Flake and Senator Corker’s comments were “petty.” What exactly of Senator Flake’s speech did you find to be petty?
MS. SANDERS: I thought that his attacks and a lot of the comments that he made — I don’t have a readout in front of me, but as I was watching it, I noticed that a lot of the language, I didn’t think, was befitting of the Senate floor.
Q But nothing in particular?
MS. SANDERS: Sorry, go ahead.
Q I mean, I was going to ask about Fed Chair and I’m just interested if the vote that seemed to happen at the Senate meeting, where you saw — where, according to Senator Scott, John Taylor, got the most votes, if that is going to influence the President’s decision on that. And then, just a follow-up on Andrew’s question —
MS. SANDERS: Let me answer the first question first. As I said earlier, the President is taking this decision very seriously, going through a very thoughtful and thorough review and interview process. And when we have an announcement on that, we’ll let you know.
He’s talking to a lot of relevant stakeholders and individuals about this and knows that it has a great deal of impact — this decision. So, again, he’ll take his time and make sure he makes the right one and not just a fast one.
Q Sarah, thanks. To follow up on some of the questions that have been asked, how does fighting with members of his own party advance the President’s agenda and his stated goals for the American people?
MS. SANDERS: Look, the President is fighting for an agenda, and he has — as I’ve said, if he gets hit, he’s going to hit back. And people didn’t elect him to be weak; they elected him to be strong. And if he feels it’s necessary to respond, he’s going to do that.
And at the same time —
Q But you have — there is no margin for error, though, Sarah.
MS. SANDERS: — he can talk and chew gum at the same time. He’s pushing forward on an agenda. It takes 30 seconds to send out a tweet, and he spends the bulk of his day working on and pushing policy initiatives like tax reform, like tax cuts, and that’s what he is committed to doing.
Q Let me just follow up with you very quickly. There’s some confusion around 401(k)s, and some Republicans are saying that’s making their job to actually get tax reform done more complicated. So can you say here definitively that the Republican tax reform proposal will not touch 401(k)s?
MS. SANDERS: That’s the President’s plan, and that’s what he’d like to see Congress get onboard with as well.
Q Is he committed to that?
MS. SANDERS: He wants to make sure that we’re protecting American’s futures and American’s retirements, and that’s part of that process.
Q Thanks, Sarah. On the opioid crisis, we’ve seen the President organize a commission, we’ve seen him host meetings, he’s used the word “crippling,” the words “national emergency,” we’ve seen the administration put more resources into law enforcement, and we’ve seen him take on this message of telling kids just not to start.
But advocates for those who are addicted say they feel like they just haven’t seen enough work towards helping people who are currently addicted — that there is a need for a huge rush of money to get more people into treatment. What’s the President’s thinking right now? And can they expect anything in the coming days when it comes to getting help to those who are addicted and need treatment?
MS. SANDERS: Absolutely. This is obviously a growing epidemic that the President is very committed to fighting against. He has been working with his policy advisors and his team diligently and all the relevant components and agencies. And you’ll see some more details on those efforts by the end of this week, and in the next couple of days, some specific announcements that the President said he would have.
Thanks so much, guys. We’ll be around the rest of the afternoon. Have a good day.
END 4:20 P.M. EDT
Speakers stressed the need to increase official development assistance (ODA), build infrastructure, widen export bases and stimulate trade in least developed and landlocked developing countries, as the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) took up groups of countries today.
Bangladesh’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries, said her group was limited by narrow production and export bases, stagnant trade, low investment flows and widespread poverty. Expressing concern over inward-looking and restrictive policies of development partners, she called for timely implementation of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.
Climate change was also undermining development efforts, she said, as were difficulties in accessing the Green Climate Fund and Least Developed Countries Fund. She lauded the newly established Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries, but said the United Nations development system must reposition itself to better support the world’s most vulnerable States.
Addressing development finance, Ecuador’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, expressed concern that total official development assistance (ODA) to least developed countries had declined from $41 billion in 2014 to $37.3 billion in 2015. Preliminary data from 2016 showed that bilateral ODA to least developed countries had further decreased by 3.9 per cent, compared to 2015.
Urging the international community to meet its ODA commitments, Ethiopia’s representative noted that 35 per cent of the population of least developed nations would remain in poverty in 2030. “It is certainly correct to state that the battle of achieving the 2030 Agenda [for Sustainable Development] would be won or lost in least developed countries,” he said.
Addressing the plight of landlocked developing countries and speaking on their behalf, Zambia’s representative said attracting resources and investments in infrastructure development was a major challenge. Accordingly, he called on the international community to support efforts by the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries through technical assistance, investment and public-private partnerships.
Establishing and maintaining secure, reliable, high-quality sustainable infrastructure, including transport, energy and information and communications technology (ICT), were critical to reducing the high costs of trade, he added. World Trade Organization (WTO) members should implement the Trade Facilitation Agreement and development partners should provide technical, financial and capacity-building support.
Sandagdorj Erdenebileg, of the United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action (document A/72/272).
Noting that efforts were underway to expand and upgrade road and rail transport infrastructure in landlocked areas of Asia, Africa and Latin America, he said substantial expansion as well as maintenance requirements were still urgently needed. On international trade, he observed that landlocked countries accounted for a low share of global merchandise exports at just .88 per cent in 2016, down from .96 per cent in 2015.
He also introduced the Secretary-General’s reports on crisis mitigation and resilience-building for the least developed countries (document A/72/270) and implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011‑2020 (document A/72/83-E/2017/60).
Also speaking were the representatives of Lao People’s Democratic Republic (for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Maldives (also for the Alliance of Small Island States), Zambia (for the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries), Haiti (for the Caribbean Community), El Salvador (for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), India, Russian Federation, Moldova, Botswana, Mongolia, Thailand, Bhutan, Tajikistan, Nepal, Indonesia, Brazil, Kuwait, China, Lesotho, Myanmar, Mali, Morocco, Zimbabwe, Maldives and Timor-Leste.
A representative of the International Chamber of Commerce also spoke.
The Committee will meet again on Wednesday, 18 October, at 10 a.m. to take up the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat).
Introduction of Reports
SANDAGDORJ ERDENEBILEG, Chief of the Policy Development, Coordination, Monitoring and Reporting of the United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011 to 2020 (document A/72/83-E/2017/60). He said the average gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate of least developed countries was estimated to have increased to 4.5 per cent in 2016 from 3.8 per cent in 2015, but that rate was well below the target of 7 per cent growth. Progress towards building productive capacity was stagnant, as the share of manufacturing increased only marginally to 12.7 per cent in 2015 from 12.1 per cent in 2014. Investment declined in 2015 to 23.5 per cent of GDP, down from 25 per cent in 2014. He commended the establishment of the Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries and the related contribution agreement which was signed in 2017. In terms of human and social development, he expressed concern that 32 million children remained out of school from 2009 to 2015 and that millions of persons suffered from food insecurity in South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen.
Additionally, he noted that bilateral official development assistance (ODA) to least developed countries fell by 3.9 per cent in 2016 compared to 2015. The foreign direct investment (FDI) flows to least developed countries also declined in 2016 by 13 per cent and only accounted for 2 per cent of the world. In terms of governance, 14 least developed countries were considered compliant with the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and six became candidate countries. Numerous least developed countries also reached the graduation threshold and others were set to graduate soon. To that end, he urged all stakeholders to reverse the declining trend in ODA, FDI and trade, all of which were critical for the sustainable development of least developed countries.
Mr. Erdenebileg next introduced the Secretary-General’s report on crisis mitigation and resilience-building for the least developed countries (document A/72/270). He noted that least developed countries were highly exposed to shocks, as they often had topographies with geological fault lines, floodplains and coastal area, placing them at high risk of earthquakes, cyclones, flooding and typhoons. Climate change and increasing globalization made them even more vulnerable to external shocks. Many had experienced various disasters and shocks with consequences of a high magnitude. Also, most least developed countries were commodity-dependent and market shocks had severe consequences on their economies.
Severe external shocks and crises not only halted the pace of economic progress and exacerbated poverty, but also undermined the capacity of least developed countries to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, he said. Most losses in those countries were uninsured and Governments did not have the financial reserves or access to contingency financing that allowed them to absorb losses, recover and rebuild quickly. Least developed countries did not have the necessary resources to establish effective resilience-building mechanisms. Indemnity-based commercial insurance was not available to them for most natural hazards, as the market was simply non-existent or insufficiently developed. Least developed countries needed increased international assistance, both technical and financial, to build their resilience and gain access to capital market-based risk transfer mechanisms in the form of insurance and catastrophe bonds.
Concluding, he introduced the Secretary-General’s report on implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action (document A/72/272). He noted that landlocked developing countries had experienced a decline in annual GDP growth, which fell from 3.5 per cent in 2015 to an estimated 2.6 per cent in 2016. They had also experienced a reduction in their under‑five mortality rates, HIV incident rate and prevalence of undernourishment, malaria and tuberculosis. Efforts were under way to expand and upgrade road and rail transport infrastructure in Asia, Africa and Latin America. However, there were still missing links that needed to be closed and substantial expansion as well as maintenance requirements were also urgently needed.
The average proportion of population with access to electricity in landlocked developing countries had increased from 42 per cent in 2010 to 49 per cent in 2014, he continued. Regarding information and communications technology (ICT), they lagged behind other groups of countries and faced high costs for broadband. On international trade, landlocked developing countries accounted for a low share of global merchandise exports at just .88 per cent in 2016, declining from .96 per cent in 2015. Their merchandise exports remained highly concentrated on commodities, as the share of commodities exports averaged 83.1 per cent in 2015.
The representative of Nigeria asked for information on the strategies and recommendations to address maternal mortality and children’s education in least developed countries. In response, Mr. ERDENEBILEG said the United Nations system organizations had dedicated support mechanisms that addressed those issues. Efforts included the promotion of trade and access to global markets as well as programmes to support the enrolment of children in schooling.
DIEGO FERNANDO MOREJÓN PAZMIÑO (Ecuador), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said ODA had continued to be the critical source of external financing for least developed States, providing a buffer to weather impacts of the unstable and volatile global economic environment. He expressed concern that total ODA from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee countries to least developed States had declined from $41 billion in 2014 to $37.3 billion in 2015. Furthermore, preliminary data from 2016 showed that bilateral net ODA to least developed countries had further decreased by 3.9 per cent compared to 2015. He also noted that such countries were disproportionately affected by systemic shocks, including the economic crisis, commodity price volatility, health epidemics, natural hazards and other environmental shocks. Such events not only halted the pace of economic progress, but undermined their capacity to achieve the 2030 Agenda.
The Group recognized the special development needs and challenges of landlocked developing countries, arising from their remoteness from world markets and geographical constraints, he said. Those disadvantages imposed serious impediments for export earnings, private capital inflow and domestic resource mobilization, adversely affecting their overall sustainable development. He stressed that infrastructure development played a key role in reducing the cost of development for landlocked developing countries and that the development and maintenance of transit transport infrastructure, ICT and energy infrastructure were crucial for them to reduce high trading costs, improve competitiveness and become fully integrated into the global market.
KHIANE PHANSOURIVONG (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) spoke on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and aligned himself with the Group of 77. He expressed hope that the international community would translate their commitments into concrete action, especially for the benefit of least developed countries and landlocked developing States.
He said his region placed great importance on providing support to least developed and landlocked developing countries in addressing their development challenges, particularly in relation to their geographical handicaps and structural vulnerabilities. Under the regional cooperation framework, he recognized the existence of development gaps among ASEAN States and thus highlighted the important work of the Initiative for ASEAN Integration Work Plan III which assisted less developed countries in capacity-building activities.
SHANCHITA HAQUE (Bangladesh), speaking on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries and associating herself with the Group of 77, said that structural transformation was slower in her Group than in other developing States due to institutional and capacity constraints. Those limitations included narrow production and export bases, stagnant trade and investment flows, weak land and natural governance, and widespread poverty. The principle of State ownership remained crucial and the nations in the Group were committed to take the lead in formulating, implementing, following up and reviewing their own coherent economic and development policies to implement the Istanbul Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011‑2020, she said.
Expressing concern about the inward-looking and restrictive policies adopted by some development partners, she called for the timely implementation of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. Further, climate change was undermining development efforts and there were difficulties in accessing and utilizing the Green Climate Fund as well as the Least Developed Countries Fund. Thanking Turkey for its generous contribution to the newly established and operationalized Technology Bank, she said that the Organization’s development system must reposition itself to effectively support the most vulnerable countries of the world.
Mr. RAUSHAN (Maldives), speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States and associating himself with the Group of 77, noted that eight of his bloc’s members had least developed country status. While none of them were landlocked, they were all “sea-locked”. As island and coastal States, they understood the unique challenges faced due to remoteness, highly dispersed populations, limited connectivity, poor infrastructure and transport, among other characteristics. The Maldives had only graduated from the status of least developed country six years earlier, he pointed out, adding that targeted approaches were necessary to support the efforts of countries in special situations to achieve sustainable development and economic growth.
He went on to highlight the need for all countries in special situations to consider transparent measurements of progress on sustainable development that moved beyond per capita income. Income-based indicators reflected neither a society’s holistic advancement nor its vulnerabilities, he observed, and did not address the unique circumstances and challenges of each country. That distinction became even more pertinent when assessing countries for graduation because many least developed nations on track for graduation were extremely vulnerable to shocks such as large-scale disasters. Such occurrences could not be stopped, but better graduating policies could be formulated and better safety nets provided for newly graduating countries so they could make smoother and more successful transitions. As such, he called on the Secretary-General to ensure that the system was better equipped to address and respond to countries in special situations, both in his repositioning of the United Nations development system and his broader reform of the Organization.
LAZAROUS KAPAMBWE (Zambia), speaking on behalf of the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said it was critical that the special challenges of those countries be mainstreamed into the 2030 Agenda follow-up processes. The Group emphasized the importance of fostering synergies and coherence in the implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action and the 2030 Agenda, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the Paris Agreement on climate change and other critical development processes. The establishment and maintenance of secure, reliable, efficient, high-quality sustainable infrastructure, including transport, transit systems, energy and ICT, remained critical to reducing the high costs of trade and transport, particularly for the Group’s countries.
The magnitude of resources and investments in infrastructure development was a major challenge, he continued, calling upon the international community to support the Group’s efforts through technical assistance, facilitating investment and strengthening public-private partnerships. He also called on World Trade Organization (WTO) members to implement the Trade Facilitation Agreement and called on development partners to provide technical, financial and capacity-building support. Inclusive and sustainable industrialization was critical for the structural transformation of economies. Meanwhile, regional integration and ensuring coherent regional policies was essential to enhancing connectivity, improving regional trade and linkages with regional and global value chains. The Group expressed concern with the stagnating trend of ODA as well as the sharp decline in FDI. It also stressed the importance of continued support and international cooperation on efforts in adaptation and mitigation to climate change and strengthening resilience.
ASTRIDE NAZAIRE (Haiti), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and associating herself with the Group of 77, said that least developed countries continued to face a set of interconnected global challenges. For one, ODA remained the most important source of external development finance for them. “It is therefore a matter of grave concern that the total ODA from donor countries to least developed countries declined,” she said. Developed countries must step up efforts to increase their ODA and make additional concrete efforts towards the ODA targets. Since most least developed countries struggled to mobilize domestic resources, it was essential to increase domestic public finance including at the subnational level. That would help enhance Governments’ abilities to provide public services, finance infrastructure and help manage macroeconomic stability.
Coordination of support for domestic resource mobilization and the recognition of the importance of country ownership was crucial, she continued. To that end, it was essential to reduce illicit financial flows by 2030 with a view to eventually eliminate them. Technology transfer and South‑South cooperation were vital. While some least developed States were graduating from the category of countries by 2020, it was important to keep in mind that they would still face significant challenges. In that context, she called on the United Nations and development partners for more institutionalized and coordinated support to countries graduating from that group. She also emphasized the need to support least developed countries in addressing climate change, noting the heavy toll on the Caribbean region with back-to-back hurricanes Irma and Maria.
HECTOR ENRIQUE JAIME CALDERÓN (El Salvador), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), expressed hope that the mid-term review of the Istanbul Programme of Action and the monitoring results of the fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries would be positive. Similarly, he welcomed the adoption of the Vienna Declaration and the Vienna Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries for the Decade 2014‑2024 through General Assembly resolutions 69/137 and 69/232.
To that end, he reaffirmed his Group’s commitment to promote the consideration of special needs and challenges of landlocked developing countries, in accordance with those agreements.
ASHISH KUMAR SINHA (India), associating himself with the Group of 77, pointed out that more than one‑fourth the total Member States of the United Nations continued to be recognized as least developed countries, a fact that reflected the “huge scale” of the challenges faced and the work required to achieve the 2030 Agenda. Among other things, the needs of countries in special situations included the diversification of economies; education and skills to expand countries’ human resources bases; better infrastructure and connectivity; access to affordable energy and emerging technologies; resilience to natural hazards or external economic shocks; debt burden management; and better terms of international trade and investment. Expressing hope that the Technology Bank would facilitate the building of national capacities, he said India had longstanding development partnerships with other developing nations, focused on the sharing of technological expertise and financial assistance as well as the provision of scholarships and training. In 2008, India had become the first emerging economy to offer a duty-free trade preference scheme to provide market access to least developed countries, and in 2015 it had extended an additional concessional credit of $10 billion to African countries over the next five years.
Mr. MASLOV (Russian Federation) commended national strategies and programmes aimed at strengthening the development of least developed and landlocked developed countries, but said additional support should be given to facilitate employment and economic diversification. In that regard, he encouraged a greater role for the Technology Bank. His country worked to broaden the access of least developed countries’ goods into global markets through the Eurasian preferential tariff, which benefitted 48 least developed States. To that end, it provided concessions in the form of $3.13 million in 2016 and $2 million in 2017. His country encouraged the stabilization of food prices and commodities and participated in international humanitarian efforts to provide food aid to States, both bilaterally and multilaterally. In collaboration with the World Food Programme (WFP), the Russian Federation provided 30 States with $220 million of food aid. His country also supported long-term development and food security programmes, including a 3‑year programme with a $6 million budget to strengthen agriculture, which was led by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). His Government also provided $3.3 million to combat the spread of antimicrobial resistance.
VICTOR MORARU (Republic of Moldova), reaffirming his country’s commitment to the development priorities listed in the Vienna Programme of Action, outlined recent progress in improving his nation’s business climate. Among other things, the Government had optimized the regulatory framework, expanded business support infrastructure and established a “one-stop shop” for all public sector services to enable both citizens and the private sector to easily access information. Free economic zones, offering customs and tax benefits, had been created across the country to attract foreign investment, resulting in the diversification of Moldovan imports and the creation of new jobs. While the Secretary-General’s report highlighted slight progress achieved by least developed States in several areas, including the eradication of extreme poverty, it also noted challenges faced by landlocked developing countries in their pursuit of sustainable development. Significant resources were therefore still required to achieve the priorities set out in the Vienna Programme of Action and the Sustainable Development Goals, he said.
TLHALEFO BATSILE MADISA (Botswana), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said that it was a well-known fact that the latter were confronted with challenges that pertained to their geographical disadvantage. Botswana attached great importance to the effective implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action and had made significant strides in that regard. That implementation had not been undertaken in isolation but alongside already existing strategies and policies, he said. Higher transit costs and cross-border delays in landlocked developing countries militated against their integration into the global trading system. Botswana had signed numerous treaties to facilitate the free movement of peace and goods through its territory.
ENKHTSETSEG OCHIR (Mongolia) said her country was working with the Russian Federation and China to build a tripartite economic corridor to improve transit in the region. In June 2016, the three countries had agreed on basic principles, a mechanism of coordination and priority projects for the corridor. Her Government had recently decided to set up an investment and research centre at its Ministry of Foreign Affairs as the tripartite economic corridor’s focal point. The corridor would promote increased trade turnover, cross-border transportation and improved competitiveness. The establishment and maintenance of secure, reliable, efficient infrastructure also remained critical to reducing the high cost of trade and transport and enhancing the integration of landlocked developing countries into global markets. In addition, her country had learned that diversification of the economy was crucial. Mining still dominated Mongolia’s economy, making it vulnerable to external shocks. Her Government would make sustained efforts to diversify with value-added production in other sectors, with a strong emphasis on green development and ICT.
YONATHAN GUEBREMEDHIM SIMON (Ethiopia), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Least Developed Countries, said that 35 per cent of the population of least developed nations would remain in poverty in 2030. “It is certainly correct to state that the battle of achieving the 2030 Agenda would be won or lost in least developed countries,” he said. Least developed countries should be the primary beneficiaries of international cooperation, and in that regard, he expressed concern that the current global circumstance was not favourable enough to realize the vision of leaving no one behind. He noted that the bilateral net ODA to least developed countries was $24 billion in 2016, representing a fall of 3.9 per cent compared with 2015. He urged for the international community to meet its ODA commitments and called for enhanced resource allocation within the development system to give priority to least developed countries. Similarly, he encouraged development partners to fulfil their commitments to the Istanbul Programme of Action and the Vienna Programme of Action. For its part, Ethiopia had mainstreamed those agreements into its national transformation plan for 2010 to 2015, its second national plan for 2015 to 2020 and its national development plan.
PUNNAPA PARDUNGYOTEE (Thailand), associating herself with the Group of 77 and ASEAN, said that least developed and landlocked developing countries were endowed with enormous human and natural resources. They had the potential to contribute to sustained and inclusive global economic growth with the proper international support aimed at strengthening their capacity to cope with various global challenges. She stressed that all stakeholders must do their part in mobilizing available resources to achieve sustainable development and emphasized that ODA, domestic resource mobilization through good governance and public-private partnerships were critical. South‑South and triangular cooperation were important frameworks in assisting developing countries as well. She noted that as part of Thailand’s commitment to the WTO, it was among developing countries granted duty‑free and quota‑free market access for thousands of products. Thailand had also signed free trade agreements with several least developed countries.
SONAM TOBGAY (Bhutan), associating himself with the Group of 77, noted that the Committee for Development Policy, at its next triennial review in March, would consider Bhutan, along with five other countries, for possible graduation from the least development country category. Graduation represented a moment of national satisfaction, and also was a testament to successful partnership and collaboration between his country and its development partners, he said. However, he pointed out that challenges remained, adding that while Bhutan had achieved the income and human asset index criteria, it fell far behind in the economic vulnerability index which was critical to ensuring sustained economic growth and development. He also highlighted the importance of smooth transition and continued support, noting that some development partners were withdrawing from his country because of its modest success. As the Secretary-General had stated, he recalled, “graduation should not be punished, but instead, rewarded”.
JONIBEK HIKMATOV (Tajikistan), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said that lack of access remained a main obstacle for the integration of the latter States into the global trading system. As a landlocked developing country, Tajikistan encouraged strong synergy and implementation of development objectives at all levels. His country had promoted efforts to strengthen its transit infrastructure, facilitated trade, simplified its customs regulations and offered tax benefits through free economic zones. He recalled the agreement to establish an international think tank for landlocked developing countries, and said his nation would support its efforts to advance the interest of landlocked developing countries at the global level. Noting that Tajikistan was yet to overcome structural and developmental challenges, he said that the lack of access to sea markets interfered with integration of landlocked developing countries into the world trade system. Similarly, he urged all States to cease economic and unsubstantiated barriers to trade and transportation. On climate change, he said that more than 2,000 people suffered annually in his country due to the damage caused by environmental and natural hazards. To address existing challenges, Tajikistan furthered efforts to enhance its transportation, communication, electrical and energy routes and markets. He encouraged donor countries to extend greater support through technological and financial assistance, including through grants and concessional loans.
NIRMAL RAJ KAFLE (Nepal), associating himself with the Group of 77, Group of Least Developed Countries and the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said that least developed States faced unprecedented challenges owing to their structural weaknesses. In that context, he underscored the importance of a “sustainable and smooth graduation process” by ensuring enhanced, predictable and continued international support to those nations graduating from the least developed category. “The core issue here is not the mere acknowledgement of their specific challenges but the fulfilment of the means of implementation — its sources, reliability, predictability and sustainability,” he said. The role of technology was vital to help develop least developed countries, he stressed, calling for an effective operationalization of the Technology Bank. “Landlockedness” was now known to make development 20 per cent costlier and incur double price for export with disasters and climate change further aggravating challenges. Nepal continued to face such challenges, and was therefore focusing on developing connectivity, trade facilitation, transfer of technology and promote investment.
SHERWIN LUMBAN TOBING (Indonesia) said special attention must be paid in addressing diverse needs and challenges faced by African countries, least developed nations, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States. Many of those countries were disproportionately confronted with various systemic shocks, including unfavourable macroeconomic situations, conflicts, humanitarian emergencies, natural hazards and climate change. Such shocks impeded efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda and could reverse developmental achievements. The international community must enhance support for implementation of international agreements and provide ODA to help those countries overcome vulnerabilities and build resilience. Debt restructuring must be prioritized for countries impacted by conflicts or natural hazards. Investment in infrastructure must be encouraged to generate employment and help countries integrate better with the world economy. Investment was also needed to diversify their economies, thus avoiding over-reliance on limited export commodities.
PHILIP FOX-DRUMMOND GOUGH (Brazil) said that the slow pace of recovery in the world economy had had a significant impact on developing countries’ capacity to mobilize resources towards sustainable development. That challenge was particularly true for the least developed and landlocked least developed countries. Least developed States needed improved global support to overcome the structural challenges they faced in implementing the 2030 Agenda, he said. The midterm review of the Istanbul Programme of Action in 2016 renewed the collective impetus for achieving the goals included in its eight priority areas, with a view to meeting the general goal of graduating half of all least developed countries by 2020.
FAWAZ BOURISLY (Kuwait), associating himself with the Group of 77, said the effects of climate change had negatively impacted the economies and infrastructure of the least developed countries. He said the “lack of respect” by donors to their international commitments resulted in a decrease in the rates of ODA. For the tenth consecutive year, Kuwait committed to provide 10 per cent of its assistance to the least developed countries. His Government also fulfilled its ODA commitments and provided 12 least developed countries with technological assistance and preferential and flexible loans through its Kuwait-Arab Economic Fund. Kuwait also provided development cooperation to 106 countries, particularly through efforts to mobilize the Sustainable Development Goals in Asia and Africa. Since 2015, his country allocated $15 million each year to finance development projects through the Kuwaiti Fund for Economic Development.
ZHANG YANHUA (China), associating himself with the Group of 77, said that with three years left to implement the Istanbul Program of Action, least developed countries continued to face multiple challenges and obstacles in their development efforts. He called on all parties to work together to translate promises into action, implement the outcome document of the Comprehensive High-level Midterm Review of the Implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011‑2020 and work at enabling half of the least developed States to meet the criteria for graduation by 2020. All countries, especially developed ones, must meet their commitments and help landlocked developing nations overcome numerous challenges, such as complex transit requirements and high transport costs. He noted ways China was supporting countries in special situations through South‑South cooperation. His State was also writing off certain eligible countries’ debts, providing aid for trade, increasing investment in the least developed countries and extending zero tariff treatment.
KELEBONE MAOPE (Lesotho), associating himself with the Group of 77, the Group of Least Developed Countries and the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, underlined the vital importance of reducing the vulnerability of States in those groups to the economic, social and environmental shocks to which they were prone. Lesotho had mainstreamed the Istanbul Programme of Action into its national development agenda, known as National Vision 2020, as well as its strategic development plan for 2012‑2017, with the aim of facilitating its graduation from the group of least developed countries soon. While implementation had been slow, reforms and initiatives aimed at fast-tracking those development plans were now underway, including a national jobs creation strategy. As a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Lesotho was addressing the challenges presented by its landlocked status within the framework of the Community’s Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan, which sought to improve vehicles’ freedom of transit from one member State to another to facilitate trade. It was also a member of the Southern African Customs Union, among other relevant regional agreements.
AYE MYA MYA KHAING (Myanmar), associating herself with the Group of Least Developed Countries and the Group of 77, said structural transformation had occurred more slowly in least developed States than other developing countries. Poverty was very real due to decreased trade and investment, which was exacerbated by environmental degradation and disappearing biological diversity. ODA was still the largest external means of financing for least developed countries, but that assistance had declined in 2016. She encouraged developed nations to meet their ODA commitments. Noting that technology and innovation were key engines for sustainability, she welcomed establishment of the Technology Bank, as least developed countries lagged behind in that area.
NOËL DIARRA (Mali) associated himself with the Group of 77, the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries and the Group of Least Developed Countries. A landlocked developing country, Mali had established a transit agreement protocol for goods with all its bordering neighbours, and created a private transport sector that comprised professional public entities with the autonomy to deal with transit countries. Stressing that a lack of access to coastlines and high transport costs had hindered Mali’s economic development, he urged all States to implement the Vienna Programme of Action and the Istanbul Programme of Action. Faced with a lack of resources, famine, malnutrition and widespread poverty, Mali welcomed the establishment of the Technology Bank, and called on partners to support capacity building, foreign investment and cooperation. Similarly, he expressed concern over decreasing ODA and urged them to fulfil their financial promises.
Ms. HAMDOUNI (Morocco) said least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States faced major difficulties in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The international community must take specific measures to integrate those countries into the global economy. Many least developed countries needed enhanced ODA and FDI in areas guaranteeing a sustainable economy. Diversification of their economies was also vital for sustainable growth and strengthening resilience to shocks. Realization of donor promises was crucial in offsetting financial limits those countries had endured. Morocco was cooperating with least developed countries and small island developing States in the Pacific region, providing know-how transfer and technical assistance.
ONISMO CHIGEJO (Zimbabwe) stressed the importance of international cooperation in achieving the Vienna Programme of Action, and thus, called on partners to help close the infrastructure gaps in landlocked developing countries. For its part, Zimbabwe had set up one-stop border posts to encourage the seamless flow of goods, people and vehicles, as well as improved trade through efficient customs procedures. It had upgraded customs technology at border posts and rehabilitated highways to facilitate cross-border movement. Yet, Zimbabwe still needed to add value to its agricultural and mining products, undergo appropriate skill training and enhance funding to achieve its development goals. Evidence-based data should be collected by landlocked developing countries and provided to the international community so appropriate support might be given. It was also vital to ensure that coastal neighbours remained economically healthy, as they were crucial portals to landlocked countries.
LEONARD NKHOMA (Zambia), associating himself with the Group of 77, the Group of Least Developed Countries and the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said his State had been integrating the Istanbul Programme of Action priorities into its development planning framework. That started with the formulation of a national vision to become a prosperous middle-income nation by 2030. He supported the call for increased domestic resource mobilization and fulfilling ODA commitments, to drive productive capacity and place least developed countries on a path towards sustainable development. Zambia’s economy had improved in recent months, with GDP growth projected to reach 4 per cent in 2017. However, sustaining high and inclusive growth required a stable macroeconomic environment, and he called for new actions to reduce poverty, notably by: promoting industrialization and diversification of the agricultural sector, improving incentives in the tourism and manufacturing sectors, and investing in research and development in key economic sectors.
KHAMPHINH PHILAKONE (Lao People’s Democratic Republic), associating himself with the Group of 77, ASEAN, the Group of Least Developed Countries and the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said members of the latter two groups would not be able to overcome their special development needs without support and cooperation from the international community. The Lao People’s Democratic Republic was a least developed and landlocked nation that faced multidimensional challenges in its national development, including limited productive capacity due to low skill levels, lack of technology for industrialization, insufficient infrastructure and remoteness from the world market. To address those issues, the country was mainstreaming the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals, as well as the Istanbul Plan of Action and the Vienna Programme of Action, into its national policies. The Government had also increased investment in roads and railways linking the country with the Asian Highway and the Trans-Asian Railway networks.
Mr. RAUSHAN (Maldives), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Alliance of Small Island States, said countries in special situations continued to seek the opportunity to build resilience to achieve prosperity. Least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States must be provided a “level playing field” where they could forge enduring partnerships for economic and social development. Despite graduating from the list of least developed countries seven years ago, the Maldives faced extremely high costs of providing basic services and building critical infrastructure. He stressed the need to revisit the graduation criteria and process as the current one did not consider the country’s resilience. “When a small island State, with a small and extremely dependent economy, with just one or two industries, is graduated from the protections provided within the LDC [least developed country] category, there is no doubt that country becomes more vulnerable,” he said. A more holistic approach must be considered.
JOAQUIM JOSE COSTA CHAVES (Timor-Leste) associating himself with the Group of 77, said that as a small island developing State, his country understood the challenges of sustainable development. He welcomed the establishment of the Technology Bank and said that partnerships among the Government, private sector and civil society would be fundamental. Timor-Leste provided support to conflict-affected countries, notably to share experience in elections, help manage extractive resources and advocate the “New Deal” principles. Moreover, it had promoted economic cooperation while serving as President of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries, from 2014 to 2016, and as a member of the Pathfinders and 16+ Forum. He called for additional and predictable financing to help least developed countries, small island developing States, countries emerging from and in conflict situations, and Non-Self-Governing Territories.
HIROKO MURAKI GOTTLIEB, speaking on behalf of the International Chamber of Commerce, said WTO had estimated that effective implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement could reduce trade costs by an average of 14.3 per cent, with developing countries benefitting even more. That Agreement could also create 20 million jobs. It would also foster cooperation and coordination of various stakeholders at the national level via the National Committee for Trade Facilitation. That collaboration would drive maximum gains for stakeholders, she said.