Trade and Development Report 1981-2011

Three Decades of Thinking Development

image of Trade and Development Report 1981-2011

This publication identifies the key issues in the global economy and the design of development strategies addressed in the Trade and Development Report over the past three decades, tracing them through its various editions. It shows how ideas, opinions and proposals expressed in the Trade and Development Report, and the analytical approaches used, differed from those of “the mainstream” and their evolution in response to new challenges. This review revisits the concept of interdependence and explains the approach of the reports to macroeconomic and financial policies in both developed and developing countries. It also summarizes development policy failures and successes over the years.



The macroeconomic reasoning in the TDR

UNCTAD’s work was initially based on a centreperiphery view of the world in which there were rich, technologically advanced industrial countries and poor technologically backward developing countries, and the basic pattern of international trade was the exchange of the manufactures produced in the former for the commodities produced in the latter. Steady economic growth was assumed to be inevitable in the advanced industrial countries and the problem of development in the peripheral countries was seen as a question of how to integrate them into the growth dynamic of the centre in a way in which there were mutual benefits for both the centre and the periphery. It was argued that this would not happen automatically because of the balance of payments constraints facing developing countries given the structure of international trade. In this situation, the free play of market forces could not guarantee fast enough growth rates in developing countries to address the pressing social problems of poverty, malnutrition and accelerating jobless urbanization. There was therefore a need for development planning to help developing countries to accelerate the process of development and such disciplined effort should be supported by international cooperation.


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