• home

    ITC Sets a Course for Double-digit Growth


    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 2/2004

    ITC set a course for double-digit growth during discussions with donors and beneficiaries at its annual meeting, the Joint Advisory Group on the International Trade Centre (26-30 April).

    Over the last three years, ITC increased its delivery of technical assistance to developing and transition economies by over 20% each year for a total of 70% over three years. The launch of the Doha Development Round significantly increased requests for ITC assistance, as more developing countries engage in the global trading system and their businesses seek to understand and apply its rules.

    Representatives generally welcomed ITC's target to increase delivery by 20% again in 2004 and to maintain double-digit growth afterwards, as projected in its 2004-2006 Business Plan.

    Countries requested the expansion of trade development programmes in areas where developing country exports are growing rapidly, such as South-South trade, services exporting and creative industries. They also expressed interest in ITC's electronic market analysis tools, e-trade initiatives, export-led poverty reduction and initiatives to mainstream women in trade development.

    Over 50 delegations spoke unanimously in support of ITC's work, which the meeting's Chairman, Ambassador Henrik Rée Iversen from Denmark, summarized as "recognized by all for its quality and transparency".

    The ambitious growth rate should not come at the expense of the quality of ITC's field-level assistance, noted some. In response, J. Denis Bélisle, ITC's Executive Director, said that quality-oriented growth is feasible, as ITC focuses sharply on three objectives: to grow within its own specialized niche; to combine its expertise with others in technical assistance "consortiums"; and to continue to innovate and streamline administrative processes.

    "Pushing ourselves to the limit is important, because of the magnitude of demand for ITC assistance from developing countries, who want help to participate fully in the world economy," he added.

    40 years of aid to trade

    "ITC is unique," said Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General, in a message to the Joint Advisory Group (JAG), delivered by Sergei Ordzhonikidze, Director-General of the UN Office at Geneva, on the occasion of ITC's 40th anniversary and its annual meeting. "Its contributions in putting trade to work for development are widely recognized within the UN system, within the donor community and, most importantly, within developing countries themselves… It has managed to balance the commercially inspired demands of its clients in the business sector with the wider imperatives of sustainable development and poverty reduction."

    WTO's Deputy Director-General, Kipkorir Aly Azad Rana, congratulated ITC on "four decades of hard work, commitment and achievement on behalf of developing countries and economies in transition… WTO shares ITC's philosophy that trade can be a powerful engine for growth and development in poorer parts of the world," he said. "No other area of international cooperation offers developing countries the gains that ambitious trade liberalization can generate."

    Ablassé Ouedraogo, Senior Adviser to the President of the African Development Bank Group, called for stronger ties with ITC. Africa received US$ 2.5 billion to improve capacity for trade in 2003, 18% more than the previous year. Development banks are starting to pay attention to trade as a means to reduce poverty, but there is more they can do. "Recent visits of Dr. Rana and Mr. Bélisle to the African Development Bank… indicate clearly that the [African Development] Bank Group, ITC, WTO and UNCTAD will work together to harmonize their policies and procedures on trade development," he said.

    "In spite of deep transformation in the …international trading system in the last four decades, there is no doubt about the validity and relevance of the original ITC goals," said Rubens Ricupero, Secretary-General of UNCTAD, in a message to the JAG.

    A sustainable impact

    "We are working more with national counterparts to build national capacity, rather than with international experts. Learning by doing is the only way to have a sustainable impact. It is cost-effective, but it takes more time," said Mr Bélisle.

    Li Gang, Vice-President of the Yunnan Flower Association in China, credited ITC and the Swiss donor, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (seco), with helping farmers in rural areas to boost Yunnan's flower exports. Cut-flower exports from Yunnan Province reached US$ 30 million in 2003, over three times more than in 1999, when the project was launched. Tatiana Philippova, head of Bishkek's Chamber for Trade Promotion and a member of ITC's World Tr@de Net spoke of the change in the local business community, which was passive when Kyrgyzstan joined WTO in 1998. They have now started to work with the Government to enter new markets, such as exporting honey to the European Union. "Using a real case study helped create interest," she said. The Chamber analysed trade opportunities using ITC's market analysis tools, and developed new exports of bottled water to China. Seminars and training materials, specifically adapted to the business community, also helped raise awareness.

    ITC's market analysis tools are helping not just beneficiaries, but also donors to coordinate their work, said Imran Shauket, head of JOBS in Bangladesh, a USAID-funded initiative.

    Delegations applauded the launch of the new International Trade Fellowship Programme for developing country graduates in international business. It is conducted with AIESEC (a student-run body founded in 1948 and now operating in 84 countries). Hewlett-Packard (HP) is the first sponsor of the fellowship programme, working within the framework of the UN Global Compact, which brings together private sector businesses and UN agencies to "create a more sustainable and inclusive global economy".

    "This is either the first such UN fellowship arrangement with a big firm, or one of the very first," said Gian Piero Roz, Director of ITC's Division of Programme Support, who negotiated the agreements signed at the annual meeting. "We hope to expand ITC's fellowship activities substantially." Eric de Courville, representing HP in Geneva, said the company is committed to addressing the needs of underserved communities and focuses on economic growth in the developing world. ITC's "commitment to efficiencies in operations is the reason HP has already appreciated working with ITC on the fellowship programme, and why it looks forward to reinforcing collaboration on other projects," he said.

    Voluntary contributions

    Several governments announced trust fund contributions to ITC: Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, India, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

    ITC turned 40 on 1 May. "We are taking a hard look at the past as a source of inspiration for the future," said Mr. Bélisle.

    Recognizing ITC's help to small firms

    To recognize ITC's "considerable contribution to trade development over the last four decades" and its "strong support for SMEs", Arun Agrawal, Secretary-General of the World Association of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (WASME), presented ITC with a plaque at the close of the meeting. "SMEs, being small and isolated, lack access to markets, finance and technology. WASME is not anti-globalization, but anti-marginalization. That is why we place so much importance in programmes like ITC's," a WASME representative said earlier in the meeting. Arun Agrawal travelled from India especially to present the plaque to ITC on the occasion of its 40th anniversary.

    During ITC's Annual Meeting...

    ...ITC opened its doors to stakeholders

    During its annual meeting, ITC invited its stakeholders - donors, clients and partners - to an Open House at ITC headquarters to see the organization's work at first hand.

    A prominent feature was ITC's Competitiveness Tools Fair, which ITC has hosted in several countries in coordination with its other field events. ITC staff demonstrated over 50 products and services they have developed to help businesses in developing countries compete.

    Nuria Diez, ITC, and Tom Montgomery, ITC, welcomed visitors to the Open House.

    Yuebin Sun, ITC intern, and Haiyan Qu, ITC consultant, talk with their countrywoman Jing Zhao of the China University of Geosciences (centre), who visited the Tools Fair while attending an ITC training course.

    Paul Kelly, ITC, and Nadia Ben-Ammar, ITC, were among the many staff presenting ITC tools and services.

    Philip Williams, ITC, and Martina Petrovicá of the Ministry of Economy of the Slovak Republic exchange business cards.

    ...ITC staff, past and present, gave support

    ITC welcomed retired staff members to sessions of the Joint Advisory Group and to the Open House. Retired and current staff worked together to create a photo exhibit of "ITC Over the Years" to mark the organization's 40th anniversary.

    J. Denis Bélisle (front, centre) with retired staff members Jason Spencer-Cooke (left) and Lev Safronov (right).

    Current staff members Sheila Musiker and Ashish Shah in front of the photo exhibit.

    Back (left to right): Jacqueline Rigoulet, Frederick Glover, Ingrid Vanore-Speer, Raju Makil.
    Front (left to right): Ernst Decsey, Sven Skunke, Victor Santiapillai, Olaf Karsegard.

    Front: Former Forum editor, Janice Goertz.

    Front: Per Gunnerød; back (left to right): Antero Hyvarinen and Rudy Kortbech-Olesen.

    For more information, see ITC's web site, at http://www.intracen.org The JAG site contains ITC's annual report in all six UN languages. The 40th anniversary site features ITC's anniversary activities, with updates throughout 2004.