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    Executive Forum 2003: Encouraging Business Advocacy


    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 1/2003

    The next ITC/seco Executive Forum will take place in Cancún, Mexico on the eve of the WTO Ministerial Conference, and will include Bancomext among the co-hosts.

    Five years ago, ITC launched the Executive Forum series to help developing and transition economies build national strategies to improve trade competitiveness. From the start, each Executive Forum emphasized that government strategy-makers need to work closely with the business sector to develop trade.

    The WTO Ministerial Conference in Cancún, Mexico is the most important trade development issue facing national trade development strategy-makers this year. In light of the importance of this event, ITC's next global Executive Forum event will take place in Cancún, on the eve of the Ministerial Conference.

    The event, co-sponsored by ITC, the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (seco) and Bancomext, will include a focus on business advocacy for WTO issues - that is, encouraging a dialogue between the public and private sector in developing countries, in order to shape sound national negotiating positions.

    Business for Cancún

    This year's Executive Forum debate builds on ITC's "Business for Cancún" initiative, in which ITC and trade development partners are organizing meetings in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe before the WTO Ministerial Conference.

    Business for Cancún identifies priority business concerns, voices the perspective of different business communities and helps countries integrate the business sector's views in government negotiating positions. Senior business and government representatives have been meeting regionally to tackle how business can contribute to national negotiating positions for the upcoming WTO Ministerial Conference in Cancún in September. The meetings are helping business leaders in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe to better understand their governments' preparations for the Cancún meeting, and to develop a process for business to play its part in trade negotiations.

    Business advocacy still new

    Business advocacy, while essential to give negotiators a fuller picture of what is in a country's best interest, is still relatively new in many developing countries. Preparations for the Cancún Conference are an opportunity for the business sector and government to get together to discuss major issues that are on the negotiating table from a business perspective.

    Regional approach

    Regional meetings are tailored to specific regional concerns. Thus, textiles and clothing became a special focus in Asia, while the TRIPs (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) Agreement and public health was on the agenda in Africa. The first meeting, in Kuala Lumpur (January 2003) gathered business and government representatives from ten Asian countries and focused on challenges in market access negotiations. At the second meeting in Johannesburg, (March 2003), business leaders and WTO negotiators from 15 southern African countries discussed preparations for the Cancún Conference, with special emphasis on business advocacy for African business interests.

    E-discussions help raise awareness

    Each Business for Cancún regional meeting is preceded by an e-mail discussion to extend the debate to a wider audience and identify business concerns. For example, before the meeting in Johannesburg, more than 200 business leaders, government officials and trade development representatives from over 40 countries registered to discuss the business advocacy situation in their country.

    Almost all participants pointed out that they were not being well informed about the business stakes in WTO negotiations. What also emerged is that in spite of constraints, in most of the participating countries there are business organizations that regularly follow WTO negotiations. However, business participation is not uniform, as some business groups appear much more concerned and active than others. For instance, specific interest groups like sugar producers seem very active in certain African countries, while 'farmers' as such are not. Many asked ITC to provide additional assistance in developing business advocacy skills.

    Regional meeting produces negotiations checklist

    Participants of the Business for Cancún workshop in Kuala Lumpur created this checklist of issues for business to consider in the lead-up to the Cancún meeting.

    Market access

    • Keep in mind the relationship between WTO provisions and regional trade agreements.

    • Consider whether there should be ceilings on tariff cuts for developing countries.

    • Advocate for an extended 'duty free' window for developing countries in tariff schedules.

    • Get agreement on the size of the 'coefficient' in the 'Swiss' formula.

    • Keep pressure up on reforming non-tariff barriers to trade (sanitary and phytosanitary measures, anti-dumping investigations).

    • Consider budget implications of tariff cuts: look at alternative revenue sources.

    • Make sure special provisions for least developed countries (e.g. the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the European Union's EBA (Everything-But-Arms) initiative) are integrated in the Doha outcome.


    • Follow negotiations on anti-dumping and trade remedies closely.

    • Keep in mind the need for deep cuts to 'tariffied' textiles/garment quotas.

    • Watch rules of origin in regional agreements.

    • Resist possible 'labour' or 'environmental' barriers.

    • Work for rules limiting subsidies on fibre production.

    For more information

    The World Tr@de Net has developed some 25 ITC books, studies and reports - many of which are online - to support the Business for Cancún initiative. To see the full list, go to the World Tr@de Net site

    Below is a selection.

    Trade Forum magazine

    • Doha: How Business Can Benefit (issue 3/2002)

    Business Guides

    • Business Guide to the World Trading System

    • Business Guide to the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS)

    • Technical papers on trade remedies - in Canada, the European Community and the United States

    Progress reports on the status of WTO negotiations

    Business advocacy case studies

    Training materials on key WTO Agreements

    • Technical barriers to trade and sanitary and phytosanitary measures

    • Textiles and clothing

    • Agriculture

    E-discussion summaries

    • Business advocacy for WTO negotiations

    • Market access challenges after Doha

    For more information about Business for Cancún, contact Peter Naray, ITC Senior Adviser on the Multilateral Trading System at naray@intracen.org or visit the World Tr@de Net web site (http://www.intracen.org/worldtradenet).