Top global and regional financial officials at a conference held today pledged to help small and weak states in the Asia Pacific region in global trade.

As released today by the Asia Development Bank, the conference, held in Manilla, Philippines, was attended by nearly two dozen finance and trade ministers, along with officials from key donor countries and private sector representatives.

The two-day regional review meeting "Mobilizing Aid for Trade: Focus Asia and the Pacific" was hosted by the Asia Development Bank (ADB), World Trade Organization (WTO), in association with the Philippines government. It aims to stimulate a dialogue among Asia-Pacific economies, particularly Less Developed Countries (LCDs) and small states, and donor countries on how to boost economic infrastructure; focus on productive capacity building and provide help in transition to adoption of more outward-oriented trade policies; boost capacity to formulate, negotiate and implement trade policy and related agreements.

The news release adds that Aid for Trade is a complement, not a substitute, for Doha Development Round, a round of negotiations that began in 2001 aiming to lower trade barriers around the world, permitting free trade between countries. Trade leaders had said that the successful completion of the Doha Round will help small and weak states the most. However, these economies do not have the capacity or infrastructure to benefit from local trade. Aid for Trade will help these economies to strengthen their capacities through outward market-oriented reforms. That is, they need access to infrastructure, such as transport, telecommunication networks, modern custom facilities, and financial resources to make the necessary transition to develop open market systems and other key services that drives globalization.

The Aid for Trade Initiative was launched at the WTO Ministerial Conference in 2005 where major donors pledged around $15 billion for the "Aid for Trade" initiative.