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    ITC's Annual Meeting

     

     
     
    Reinforces Capacity-Building for Trade
    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 1/2001 

    Helping small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) compete globally is more relevant than ever. In the aftermath of recent WTO and UNCTAD meetings in Seattle and Bangkok, Governments reaffirmed the importance of ITC's role in delivering practical trade development assistance to business at ITC's annual intergovernmental meeting, the Joint Advisory Group (Geneva, 10 to 14 April).

    Governments endorse ITC's trade capacity-building strategy 

    Frank and open discussions about ITC's strategies, programmes and future directions took place among donors, beneficiary countries and a range of international organizations, all of which work in partnership with ITC to build trade capacities in developing and transition economies.

    Governments applauded both ITC's strategy and recent track record, outlined during the meeting by Executive Director, J. Denis Bélisle. ITC's technical assistance is designed to help countries benefit from the world trading system. Programmes address the five areas where assistance is most needed: mastering the business implications of the multilateral trading system; developing national export strategies; reinforcing trade support institutions; building enterprise competitiveness; and improving sectoral trade performance.

    To implement this strategy, Mr. Bélisle highlighted ITC's comparative advantages in delivering technical assistance: a 36-year track record of field-based, trade development experience; major re-tooling of ITC's products and services, based on three years of applied research; and an innovative, participatory approach that delivers maximum outreach and builds capacity in a cost-effective manner.

    Practical business solutions 

    ITC profiled two of its many practical business development solutions during an informal session at the meeting, which was also open to journalists, and attracted press coverage in a range of business newspapers, magazines and wire services.

    The three-year Gourmet Coffee project, launched in 1997, helped pilot countries - Brazil, Burundi, Ethiopia, Papua New Guinea and Uganda - to develop high-quality gourmet coffees in demand by coffee houses in the United States, Europe and Japan. As part of the project, ITC also co-organized the world's first Internet coffee auction, generating top prices and interest from bidders around the world.

    ITC's South-South Trade Promotion programme outlined the scope for greater intra-regional trade, and the potential for business-to-business regional cooperation that makes firms more competitive in global markets. For example, regionally-based companies reported US$ 200 million dollars of export orders at recent ITC buyers-sellers meetings in the Arab region.

    Information technologies, a recurrent meeting theme 

    A recurrent theme was ITC's use of information technologies in delivering its products and services. Several asked how the electronic coffee auction model could be extended to other countries and commodities. Some announced that they plan to contribute to ITC's next Executive Forum (September 2000), which will explore the impact of the digital economy on trade development. A new distance-learning partnership with the World Bank Distance Learning Institute elicited interest. Business round tables to develop the use and export of information technologies in Eastern Europe also attracted attention.

    Effective partnerships 

    Many representatives of developing countries, from all regions, testified to ITC's useful and concrete contribution in supporting trade expansion, and lauded ITC for its broad range of pragmatic programmes and services and its shared ownership approach. Both beneficiaries and donors, however, highlighted the need for greater funding of ITC's programmes.

    Participants expressed support for the partnership-oriented approach of the Joint Integrated Technical Assistance Programme in Selected Least-Developed and Other African Countries (JITAP) of ITC, UNCTAD and WTO, as well as the Integrated Framework for Trade-Related Technical Assistance to Least Developed Countries (IF), carried out by six international organizations, including ITC.

    A series of organizations are interested in joining forces with ITC. For example, ITC announced a Memorandum of Understanding with the United States Agency for International Development for regional trade capacity-building projects in Asia and the Middle East. The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific and the International Coffee Association are also discussing Memoranda of Understanding with ITC to formalize and strengthen ties.

    Voluntary contributions announced 

    Several Governments announced contributions to ITC: Canada, China, Denmark, France, India, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey.

    The meeting - led by the Chair, Ambassador S. Avila Siefert of Bolivia; Vice-Chairs, Mr. Y. Afanassiev, Russian Federation, and Mr. Eberhard von Schubert, Germany; and Mr. Yousaf Junaid of Pakistan, Rapporteur - highlighted innovative partnerships and new technologies as means to build capacities for trade in developing and transition economies.

    For more information, contact Elaine Bisson, External Relations Officer, at bisson@intracen.org