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    ACP Countries Think Regional


    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 1/2001 

    How can African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries benefit most from the new world trading system? This was the theme

    of a keynote address delivered by ITC's Executive Director, J. Denis Bélisle, at the Meeting of the ACP Ministers Responsible for Trade (Brussels, December 2000).

    Despite two decades of preferential access to European Union (EU) markets granted to ACP countries under the Lomé Convention, their export performance has not improved substantially. The recent ACP-EU Cotonou Agreement, signed in 2000, gives importance to regional integration, noted Mr. Bélisle. This new accent on regional integration is a key to facilitating the integration of ACP countries into the world economy.

    To build trade capacity, there are also a number of steps that countries must focus on. These include eliminating roadblocks to investment; familiarizing exporters with the rules of the multilateral trading system; implementing export strategies that reflect business imperatives; building competitiveness of firms through quality-control methods, better marketing skills and packaging techniques, export finance and appropriate use of new information technologies; and, last but not least, keeping up the determination and perseverance of all players, in spite of occasional failures.

    Targeted technical assistance can help both facilitate regional integration and build export capabilities, he added.

    High potential for intra-ACP trade 

    Intra-African trade in the 1990s increased twice as fast as the region's overall international trade, showing the high potential for intra-regional trade in developing countries. Yet overall, most ACP countries continue to export primary products to traditional markets. This fosters depend-ence on a few outlets and keeps many ACP exporters vulnerable to market fluctuations.

    ACP countries can redress the imbalance by diversifying traditional products up their value chain, thus broadening their export base. Intra-regional and intra-industry trade offers good opportunities to achieve this.

    ITC can help increase South-South trade 

    To make intra-ACP trade potential a reality, targeted technical assistance can help. For instance, ITC's intra-regional trade development programmes have been uniting trade promotion and business organizations to spearhead regional trade expansion. This custom-made approach, developed over the last decade, has been pioneered among Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries, where it is already showing results. The SADC/ITC partnership, which currently focuses on wood, fish and tropical food products, is generating new trade as well as a range of joint ventures and other cross-border business arrangements. The same methodology has been adapted to selected sectors in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.

    To obtain a full text of Mr. Bélisle's remarks, contact Françoise Donet at donet@intracen.org