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    Does Trade-related Technical Assistance Work?


    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 1/2005

    ITC made the case for trade development and sparked debate at the latest informal meeting of its Joint Advisory Group.

    ITC projects are helping countries increase jobs and income among poor communities, making South-South trade a reality, helping African countries integrate into world trade and boosting exports from Bolivia and Ghana.

    ITC made the case for these trade development projects and set the stage for a real debate in its presentations to donor and beneficiary countries, as well as to colleagues of UNCTAD and WTO, at the sixth informal meeting of its Joint Advisory Group (Geneva, November 2004).

    Visible links between trade and development

    Presentations and new videos documenting trade development sparked lively discussion among participants, who came from diplomatic missions in Geneva as well as from the capitals of developed and developing countries. They discussed:
    • Export-led poverty reduction. The first UN Millennium Goal requires all countries, rich and poor, to fight poverty. Recently, ITC launched a new initiative, targeting poor communities' ability to enter the export chain for goods and services. Developing countries and donors were interested in ITC's approach, which for many showed a very visible link between trade and poverty reduction.
    • South-South trade promotion. There are exciting opportunities for business-to-business links across borders in developing countries. For many small firms, trading with a partner in a neighbouring country is a first step to entering broader international markets. Yet, without the right trade promotion infrastructure, opportunities can be hard to spot and platforms for negotiations are lacking. The methodology behind ITC's buyers-sellers meetings helps fill these gaps.
    • Integrated country development programmes. ITC has projects across various sectors to reach out to as many people as possible in a country. It aims to work in a country for several years to gain a better understanding of national export issues. This approach paid off in Bolivia, for example, where ITC helped develop the Brazil nuts sector, generating new export business and additional income for rural communities. ITC would not have spotted this opportunity if it had not been in the country for some time.

    It also paid off in Ghana. With sales of €10 million in the last half of 2004 - and expected sales of €30 million in 2005 - the story of Ghana's new horticultural exports seemed too good to be true. It was, however, the tail end of ITC's decade-long engagement with key partners in the country to diversify exports and generate income for the rural poor. Showing the results of real collaboration and national capacity building, the Ghanaian representatives took questions from the floor relating to the project, and answered them convincingly. 

    •  Multi-agency development programmes. The Integrated Framework and Joint Integrated Technical Assistance Programme help developing countries - particularly the least developed countries in Africa - to integrate into the global trading system. ITC's presentation helped show that these initiatives can complement each other effectively and coordinate the trade development work of the organizations involved and other partners.

    "We have been able to confirm that there is an abundance of entrepreneurial potential of individuals and groups in Africa, Asia or Latin America, waiting to be unleashed," said Hendrik Roelofsen, ITC's Director of Technical Cooperation Coordination. "Properly designed trade-related technical assistance, effectively implemented, can make that happen."

    ITC's informal meeting of the Joint Advisory Group takes place every year in November as a complement to its annual meeting, held in April or May. It features the work of one of its three technical divisions on a rotating basis. This year, the focus was on the division that coordinates trade development projects at the country and regional level (the Division for Technical Cooperation Coordination).

    For more information about ITC, see its web site: http://www.intracen.org