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    ITC, UNCTAD Launch BioTrade Facilitation Programme


    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 4/2002

    From left to right: Rubens Ricupero, UNCTAD Secretary General, Awni Behnam, Special Advisor to UNCTAD Secretary General, Lucas Assunção, Coordinator, BIOTRADE Initiative and J. Denis Bélisle, ITC Executive Director.

    As consumers become more environmentally conscious, "green" products and services offer vast new trade opportunities. Companies trading in natural products that can show respect for the environment are also likely to be more competitive than others. Consequently, ITC is taking a fresh look at its activities linking trade and the environment. An important step was the launch of a joint programme with UNCTAD to develop trade in biodiversity products at the World Summit on Sustainable Development. This dynamic trade area holds a high potential for many biodiversity-rich developing countries.

    The World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD, Johannesburg, August-September 2002) recognized that responsible trade in natural products can help sustain biological diversity. It is also clear that sharing the benefits of this trade can contribute to alleviating poverty. Yet there are major obstacles to expanding trade in biodiversity products in developing countries, including lack of market information and access; low management and export skills; low value-addition; lack of economies of scale; and difficulties in finding finances and reliable private sector partners. These problems require practical solutions.

    BioTrade Facilitation Programme

    ITC and UNCTAD's joint BioTrade Facilitation Programme for Products and Services Derived from Biodiversity (BTFP) is one of the first UN-led programmes to help countries tackle practical issues in this area. The BTFP will facilitate sustainable trade in biodiversity products and services by emphasizing the sustainable management of natural resources, product development, value-added processing and marketing. It aims to show that responsible trade development can contribute to sustainability and help conserve biodiversity.

    These goals can only be realized if government agencies, trade promotion offices, business, local communities and non-governmental organizations work together. For this reason, local partners of the UNCTAD BIOTRADE country programmes were fully involved in developing the BTFP. These programmes are already improving the business environment for trade in biodiversity products by supporting the development of regulations, policies and strategies; strengthening institutional capacity to assist the sector; and providing access to finance. They have made arrangements with key institutions in pilot countries to provide a knowledgeable development base for the BTFP programme.

    Target areas

    To begin with, the BTFP will cover priority product groups: edible plant products; food ingredients; cosmetic and pharmaceutical ingredients; fibres; and latexes, resins and gums. Many of these products enjoy fast-growing consumer demand at home or abroad, and have high value-adding potential. The first countries to participate in the BTFP will be Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. The programme will also extend to five southern African countries and three Asian countries.

    The programme supports innovative, mutually beneficial partnerships between international firms and local biotrade actors in developing countries, taking into account trade-related intellectual property rights. As local producers rarely export directly, the BTFP emphasizes support to the whole value chain, from community level to the international markets.

    Partners for sustainable trade development

    During the WSSD, ITC co-hosted a high-level meeting with UNCTAD's BIOTRADE Initiative to launch the programme. Among the more than 50 participants were Ministers and Vice-Ministers of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, the Netherlands, Peru and Venezuela, as well as representatives of international organizations and conventions.

    Rubens Ricupero, UNCTAD Secretary General, and J. Denis Bélisle, ITC Executive Director, signed a Memorandum of Understanding to provide an implementation framework for BTFP activities. Six parties joined ITC and UNCTAD in signing a partnership agreement: the Netherlands' Centre for the Promotion of Imports from Developing Countries; Swiss Import Promotion Programme; Andean Community; Andean Development Corporation; Bolsa Amazonia; and Southern African Natural Products Trade Association. UNCTAD's BIOTRADE Initiative will coordinate implementation and ITC is the lead technical advisor.

    The WSSD agenda rated biodiversity as one of the five key areas of work. As a result, 32 partnership initiatives were submitted, with US$ 100 million of resources pledged, for biodiversity-related work. ITC and UNCTAD contributed to this achievement with the BTFP.

    The Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs and the Dutch Ministry for Development Cooperation have each pledged US$ 2.5 million to this partnership for 2003 to 2008.

    For more information, contact Jukka Tissari, ITC Market Development Officer, at tissari@intracen.org or Rik Kutsch Lojenga, UNCTAD BIOTRADE Project Officer, Rik Kutsch Lojenga at enga@unctad.org or visit http://www.biotrade.org