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    Searching for Leadership in Crisis


    International Trade Forum - Issue 1/2009

    As the developed world has descended into financial crisis, there has been a tidal wave of despair and panic in governments and financial institutions around the world. Conflicting data underscored the fact that no one really understands the extent of the consequences. Uncertainty from investors and consumers has led to a massive contraction in demand: a 60-year low in world trade; a fall-off in foreign direct investment; a drop in commodity prices; a contraction in remittances; and an absence of trade finance.

    Life has indeed changed for all of us. At ITC, it remains our mandate to help enterprises in developing countries, and those who support them through national and regional trade support institutions, to not only survive the current crisis, but to build for a better future.

    Developing countries face huge challenges, but they should also see opportunities. Countries and companies need to focus on a few priorities that can contribute to their competitiveness and prepare for the reopening of markets.

    Articles in this edition focus on the crisis, its causes and potential remedies. It reflects ITC's determination to support the position of businesses in developing countries, so easily discarded at a time like this.

    There have been encouraging signs recently, with the G20 meeting providing an ongoing commitment to developing countries. The United Kingdom Minister of State and other contributors provide clarity on what these outcomes mean, how they will impact on each of us, and who is responsible for taking which actions.

    Correctly, there has been global concern about a potential return to protectionist policies. These will not help in the long run. Instead, countries and companies should be increasing capability in trade intelligence, which can provide qualitative information on market niches in the crisis; building quality assurance mechanisms that can differentiate them in the market; and investing in the development of women-owned enterprises.

    Trade finance has a critical role in helping to accelerate this recovery. There must be strong commitment from governments, in partnership with the banking sector, to maintain the flow of credit. We hear the World Trade Organization's leadership position on this.

    And as we learn from what went wrong, we also need to learn from what people are doing right. Read about the inspirational role that the tourism industry is playing in sustainable development.

    The countries and companies that build sustainable practices will emerge from the crisis better able to cope. It is our responsibility to learn from the crisis, and build an even stronger trade platform to support small businesses around the world.

    This is our ongoing commitment at ITC.

    Patricia Francis

    Executive Director, ITC