Today's world has shown unprecedented technological and economic advances. Yet, much of the world's population does not share in this prosperity. Poverty remains one of the most serious problems in our world today. Despite considerable efforts by international organizations, governments, and NGOs, the situation has not improved significantly, with nearly half of the world population still living under the poverty level. The time has come for new approaches.
Professor Y.S. Lee, Director of the Law and Development Institute (LDI), has developed a concept for a new system of international trade named "microtrade". This is designed to assist the populations of developing countries, particularly those of least-developed countries (LDCs), with their economic improvement utilizing international trade. International trade has been a vehicle for successful economic development for developing economies in East Asia, including South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and more recently, China. All of these countries have escaped from poverty because of trade-based economic development policies and an export-driven development strategy.
Can other developing countries duplicate this success and also bring their populations out of poverty? Political stability, organized government support, educated workforce, availability of foreign markets, and financial resources such as foreign loans, have all been considered essential for the success of this export-driven economic development strategy. These factors are not present in many developing countries, particularly LDCs, thus making it difficult for them to pursue successful trade-based development policies to break the circle of poverty.
Microtrade is defined as the international trade of small quantities of locally-produced products (LPPs) produced on a small scale using limited amounts of capital and low-level technology available at a local level in an LDC. Microtrade is proposed as an alternative way to provide those living in LDCs with a level of income sufficient to reduce or eliminate the most extreme forms of poverty. Microtrade, unlike the export-driven development policies undertaken at national level, is not based on the development of large-scale export industries, as these cannot be initiated by many LDCs.
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