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    ITC's Annual Meeting: Accent on Doha


    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 2/2002

    Support to the Doha Development Agenda was the focus of ITC's annual meeting, called the Joint Advisory Group Meeting (Geneva, 15 to 19 April 2002). The Group reviewed ITC's activities over the past year and looked to its future work programme, in the context of the recently launched Doha Development Round.

    Helping developing countries to earn more from exports and take part effectively in the new round of world trade negotiations are among ITC's top priorities. Both its donors and its clients acclaimed the direction of ITC's services, unique among international organizations. ITC is the only agency that focuses entirely on the business community in developing countries.

    Partnerships and complementarity

    Complementarity is the key to ITC's relations with partner organizations. In delivering trade assistance, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) concentrates on trade policy, the World Trade Organization (WTO) on trade rules and ITC on export competitiveness. ITC's services answer the three types of questions they consistently receive from the business community: Are they competitive? What are the trends and what opportunities do they bring? And how do multilateral trading system rules affect business?

    The three organizations emphasized their genuine partnership. J. Denis Bélisle, ITC's Executive Director, stated that ITC has become a focused organization. "Our focus is now directly on one of the single most critical determinants of sustainable improvement in export performance - building capacities for international competitiveness," he said.

    Rubens Ricupero, Secretary-General of UNCTAD, said that trade-related technical cooperation needed to be delivered via an integrated network. "UNCTAD, WTO and ITC developed new modalities combining a holistic approach and a strong reliance on individual expertise and comparative advantage," he said.

    Ablassé Ouedraogo, Deputy Director General of WTO, noted that developing countries had managed, to a larger extent than ever before, to influence the outcome of a WTO ministerial conference. In order to assist in that process, WTO would need to work closely with sister organizations such as UNCTAD and ITC. Against this backdrop, ITC's excellent work merited support. "I strongly encourage donors to be as forthcoming to the ITC as they have been to the WTO, so that we together can work with secure and predictable resources to build the capacity of developing countries," he declared.

    Carlos Magariños, Director-General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) referred to the Memorandum of Understanding signed between ITC and UNIDO in late 2001, and highlighted examples of recent cooperation.

    Supporting the Doha Agenda

    The Joint Advisory Group noted that ITC had remained a key niche player in trade-related technical assistance, and had delivered uniformly high-quality service to its clients in developing and transition economies. Its contribution to trade development, and development overall, remained significant. It highlighted ITC's "exemplary" approach to nurturing national and regional partnerships.

    The Group endorsed ITC's plan to balance its traditional support - alleviation of supply-side constraints, identification of business opportunities and strengthening of trade support institutions - with newer programmes, such as those for e-facilitated trade development.

    A number of ITC programmes were singled out for their support to the Doha Development Agenda, such as World Tr@de Net, the Joint Integrated Technical Assistance Programme, the Integrated Framework for Trade-Related Technical Assistance to Least-Developed Countries, the E-trade Bridge and South-South Trade Promotion.

    Many developing countries expressed interest in participating in ITC programmes on trade in services and business information, after viewing presentations on these subjects. The Internet-based TradeMaps, which provide valuable market analysis, may be "the single most powerful set of services ITC has to offer to developing countries" to support the Doha Development Agenda, noted Mr. Bélisle (see article on TradeMaps on page 36).

    As for trade in services, "It's a new world," said Mr. Bélisle. "For developing countries, new possibilities in services exports provide an opportunity and a threat. Either developing countries jump on the train now, or they risk being marginalized. If they use their well-known capital of creativity and imagination, new opportunities in services offer them a chance to make a quantum leap forward." Last year, trade in services exceeded US$ 1.4 trillion, up 6% from the previous year, accounting for nearly a quarter of world trade. Over the last 15 years, services have been the fastest-growing component of world trade, and are expected to reach 50% of trade by 2020.

    Voluntary contributions

    Several governments announced voluntary contributions to ITC: Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. The United Kingdom noted that contributions for 2002 were under active consideration (and subsequently announced a contribution to ITC).

    ITC was congratulated on the effective management of its limited resource base and the improvement in its rate of delivery. Several donors pledged funding commitments on a multi-year basis.

    For more information, the report of the Joint Advisory Group and ITC's Annual Report are available on ITC's Internet site (http://www.intracen.org).