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    ITC: Helping Business Play its Part in Trade Negotiations


    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 3/2002

    Successful negotiations for the Doha Development Agenda depend, to a large degree, on the quality of collaboration between national trade negotiators and political leaders, on the one hand, and business leaders, on the other. In its absence, national trade negotiating strategies cannot serve the business interests of a country. ITC has programmes to help business play its part effectively.

    Effective collaboration presupposes three things:

    • a desire on the part of public servants to engage in serious dialogue with the private sector;
    • the existence of mechanisms to facilitate and encourage dialogue; and
    • a well-informed business community, able to make a meaningful contribution to articulating the country's interests.

    Businesses have a vital role in shaping their country's negotiating strategy - whether for commodities, manufactures or services - in a way that helps them to capitalize on opportunities from the resulting agreements. Their support for a freer trading environment alone has a positive impact. On the operational level, their perception of which areas are of critical business importance and their analytical inputs to support negotiating positions are invaluable to their negotiators.

    Business engages in advocacy as a matter of course in industrialized countries. But in most developing and transition countries, the business community often needs support from well-designed, pragmatic technical assistance programmes to play this role effectively.

    The Doha Ministerial Declaration recognized ITC's contribution in this respect. ITC provides a unique and essential service to the business community in developing and transition economies. Its programmes increase awareness of the significance and content of the WTO rules and show businesses how to take advantage of the multilateral trading system. They also promote business communities' dialogue with their respective governments in order to better reflect their preoccupations with the business implications of national negotiating strategies.

    ITC runs a number of relevant technical assistance programmes both on its own and in partnership with WTO and UNCTAD.

    • ITC's World Tr@de Net is a unique programme assisting the business community to find its place in the Doha negotiating process. The programme has over 40 member countries working to strengthen business-government consultation. Country networks bring together business and trade associations, WTO focal points in ministries, trade support institutions, academia, trade lawyers, specialized consultants and the media. Together, they prepare action plans targeted at the specific technical assistance needs of the business community. The World Tr@de Net programme also provides information and training on relevant topics to its members.
    • The Joint Integrated Technical Assistance Programme (JITAP), implemented jointly by ITC, WTO and UNCTAD, strengthens the capacity of African countries to integrate into the multilateral trading system. As well as addressing the business aspects of JITAP, ITC has a coordinating role to ensure effective delivery of the overall programme.
    • ITC partners with five other core agencies of the Integrated Framework (IF) - the International Monetary Fund, UNCTAD, UN Development Programme, World Bank and WTO - to implement the IF initiative, which aims at "mainstreaming" trade in development strategies and at linking it to poverty reduction.

    A coordinated approach

    WTO focuses on making rules for international trade; UNCTAD on research, analysis and training for trade negotiators; and ITC on the multilateral trading system-related needs of the business community in developing and transition countries. This coordination among the three international organizations - each with its own stakeholders and responsibilities - parallels the close linkage required between the government and business sectors in the national context

    WTO members have embarked on the multilateral trade negotiations launched by the Doha Ministerial Declaration to rewrite some of the WTO agreements and, eventually, to create new ones. ITC's role during the negotiating phase is to help businesses to understand the implications for them of the issues under negotiation and to contribute meaningfully to the process, thus ensuring that exporters benefit from the rules being discussed.

    This Trade Forum issue brings to the forefront many aspects of ITC's work designed to help developing and transition economies to take better advantage of the opportunities now available to their business sector to shape their future trade environment. We hope that it will be of interest and help to our readers.

    J. Denis Bélisle is the Executive Director of ITC. He can be contacted at belisle@intracen.org