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  • ISSUE 4/2000


  • While the recent international interest in Australia has been focused on it playing host to the Sydney 2000 Olympics, not only has Australia been busy producing sporting heroes, of which we are extremely proud, we are continually working to produce global business heroes in our business community.

    To take advantage of the new digital economy, typical services that TPOs offer include electronic provision of trade information; online matchmaking; virtual exhibitions; and Internet-related education and training (see below the line).

    Despite Africa's importance as a supplier of raw material, it accounts for less than 2% of the world's leather trade. ITC seeks to increase Africa's share, especially in the production and trade of finished leather goods, which accounts for over half the value of trade in the leather sector as a whole.

    ITC encourages national governments to implement a new recommendation of the World Customs Organization (WCO).

    The Procurement and Logistics Management Association (PALMA) was launched in January 1995, and now has over 200 members. Seeking to overcome key problems in the procurement chain in Uganda, it has concentrated on building competence among purchasing professionals in the public and private sector by providing training, consultancy and information services.

    A real revolution is happening in nearly every market in which you export that will change the way that trade support institutions (TSIs) operate. The seat of this revolution is business-to-business (B2B) marketplaces. They bring together in one place all of the participants and associated services for international trade: suppliers, buyers, shippers, logistics, finance, inspection services, marketing news and software applications that facilitate digital catalogue production, purchasing and sales.

    For the second time, ITC organized an Executive Forum event, in order to assess the implications of cutting-edge trade development trends for export strategy-makers (Montreux, Switzerland, 27-30 September 2000). This year's topic was "Export Development in the Digital Economy". Supported by the Swiss secretariat of economic affairs (seco), the event gathered export strategy-makers and business leaders from 24 developing and transition economies, along with e-commerce experts and international organizations.

    An independent evaluation concluded that ITC's market development and promotion activities for jute and jute products are a major success. Working with modest budgets by industry standards, ITC produced substantial results in assisting tens of millions of very poor people in promoting jute exports, a natural, eco-friendly material. When asked to quantify benefits, leading traders suggested that over 20 years, about US$ 6 million in project funding have reaped rewards of upwards of US$ 500 million.

    ITC actively participated in CYSERV 2000 (Cyprus, October 2000), a trade event aimed at promoting services exports. Drawing an audience of over 100 from more than 17 Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Central and Eastern European developing countries, the event focused on techniques and strategies for government representatives, trade support institutions and entrepreneurs. The event included a trade exhibition, seminar and conference. It featured presentations such as the impact of WTO's General Agreement on Trade in Services, the digital economy, new opportunities for services firms, building credibility in foreign markets and the impact of e-commerce for tourism markets.

    TPOs Meet in Marrakech Marrakech, birthplace of the WTO, hosted the third World Conference of Trade Promotion Organizations. The successful event continued a process that began in Cartagena, Colombia, in 1996, and continued in Santiago, Chile, in 1998.

    Networking for trade development is the common thread of this issue. Shaped by technology, networking is taking on a new importance, and new forms. The articles showcase some trade promotion organizations, their networking tools, and how they are used to promote trade. The aim is to provide insights that readers can apply to their own business needs, and to encourage links with existing trade development networks.

    The Asian Trade Promotion Forum (ATPF) is a forum of 21 trade promotion organizations in Asia, including the Oceanic region. The external environment of trade promotion is becoming more complex and expansive, moving at a rapid pace. This situation poses a major challenge, not only to ATPF, but also to all other TPOs around the world. We must take on this challenge.

    Encouraging public-private partnerships is not a luxury. Linking these diverse networks effectively is one of the five keys to effective trade promotion. Portugal's approach provides food for thought.

    Innovation "I just received issue 2/2000 of Forum, and decided to send you this e-mail right away. The central theme on harnessing the power of innovation is indeed very interesting. My office is grateful for the numerous materials which ITC has sent us."

    Trade promotion organizations are re-examining their role in light of today's changing trade environment. At the third World Conference of Trade Promotion Organizations in Marrakech, Morocco (25-27 October 2000), J. Denis Bélisle, ITC's Executive Director, outlined five key challenges to re-orient trade promotion. The conclusions are based on the views of 50 government and business leaders who debated the issue during ITC's Executive Forum on national export strategies.

    Regional groupings of trade promotion organizations (TPOs) are on the rise. Reports from the Third World Conference of Trade Promotion Organizations confirmed this as one of the clearest trends to emerge among TPOs. Regional partnerships exist among Spanish-speaking countries, Europeans, and Asia and the Pacific through the Red Ibero-Americana (Spanish-American network), the Groupement Européen pour la Promotion du Commerce International (GEPCI, the European Grouping for International Trade Promotion) and the Asian Trade Promotion Forum (ATPF). These regional groupings are expanding, noted conference participants. As an outcome of the conference, participants from Africa and the Middle East pledged to work towards developing their own regional structure, drawing upon the experiences of other regional associations.

    Host: Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO)Founded: 1987Information Exchange Tools Annual meetings; web site; newsletter; joint study missions; joint trade-show information; system to exchange promotion information and trade data.Budget All contributions are in-kind. Hosts for the annual meeting are rotated. Each host pays organizing costs, and members pay their own way. Various national TPOs take the lead on different information exchange projects. JETRO serves as the secretariat.

    Establishing an association can be a rewarding and fascinating experience. Gathering a group of people around a common idea, and welding them into a viable entity that develops its own momentum, is a challenging project that requires a methodology, determination and persistence.

    ITC encourages organizations involved in promoting artisanal exports to announce this WCO recommendation to their own networks, by reporting the development in magazines, newsletters and web sites, as well as at relevant events. "In view of the recommendation's importance for trade promotion and export development of artisanal products, it is crucial that it be officially accepted and implemented by countries as soon as possible," notes Bertil Byskov, Chief of ITC's Market Development Section.María-Mercedes Sala, the ITC Market Development Officer responsible for artisanal products, reports that she has "disseminated it to 2,000 development partners around the world, including crafts ministries and departments, United Nations Development Programme affiliates, trade support institutions, craft business associations and relevant non-governmental organizations. WCO has also informed its worldwide network and asked its member countries to classify all craft products accordingly".Please inform M.-M. Sala directly about any achievements or progress made towards implementing this recommendation, and about any announcements that you make to your own networks. She can be contacted at: phone +41 22 730 0449; fax: +41 22 730 0446; e-mail: sala@intracen.org

    The Oxford Analytica article describes well the formidable, but surmountable constraints to integrating LDCs into the multilateral trading system. It concludes that vitally needed financial and technical assistance for LDCs will materialize only if "potential donors can be convinced that trade-related assistance is central to the development process". The issue is real; it transcends LDCs, as overall trade-related technical assistance is relatively quite limited.

    The Integrated Framework and other trade-related assistance programmes were intended to reverse the growing marginalization of sub-Saharan Africa and other least-developed countries (LDCs) in the world trading system. They were launched with high hopes, but have since made little progress owing mainly to a lack of funding.

    Q. What were the biggest challenges you faced, and continue to face, in strengthening your organization?A. We saw four major challenges: • To strike a sustainable and rational balance between members' continued interest and enthusiasm, while they were reluctant to pay the full membership subscription. • Lack of seed money to effectively implement all the start-up association activities. • Unfair competition, especially in the area of training - by either donor agencies and/or NGOs (non-governmental organizations) providing zero-priced training events in the same field of study. • Adequate board commitment.

    Small businesses in developing countries have been finding out where to go to bid for supplies at the best price worldwide, and how to avoid some of the commonest pitfalls of e-commerce, thanks to a conference organized by ITC in Switzerland. Conveniently, participants did not have to worry about getting there, since the conference took place by e-mail.