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    ITC's First Executive Forum on National Export Strategies


    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 4/1999

    ITC held its first Executive Forum on national export strategies, bringing together trade development officials, business executives and academic experts from 22 countries in Annecy, France from 26 to 29 September 1999. The participants - who came from all world regions, with many from least developed countries - discussed the need to redefine trade promotion, in light of fast-paced change in the international trade environment.

    Country strategies

    In order to pinpoint successful strategies, participants reviewed case studies from Chile, Finland, Ireland, Mauritius, New Zealand and the Philippines. Success indicators emerging from country strategies included a commitment to research, an emphasis on strategic alliances, a focus on export-led growth, flexibility, the ability to set up a good monitoring system and partnerships that lead to national consensus and explicit export strategies.

    Working together

    Participants stressed that trade promotion should be repositioned, with stronger links to investment and industrial strategies. The group explored how to: build a national planning framework based on institutional cooperation; add value to products and services; help small and medium-sized exporters use electronic commerce and industrial clustering to their advantage; attract investment in winning industry sectors; and show impact in export development activities.

    Participants also emphasized the need for multilateral institutions to work together effectively on trade development issues. In addition to strong involvement in the event from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and the World Trade Organization, several other international organizations actively participated: the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Foreign Investment Advisory Service, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and the World Bank.

    Key themes

    "Three themes emerged from this meeting," noted Mr. Bélisle. "The first is competitiveness - not just the need to benchmark where we stand, but the availability of more and more low-cost tools to measure competitiveness and chart ways forward. The second is the supply chain - how small and medium-sized firms can join global supply chains and move up the value-added ladder. The third is foreign direct investment - attracting investment not only brings money, but also provides technology and marketing outlets for export development."

    "A pragmatic export strategy is a must," he added. "Countries need to put it together, and overcome the complexities of cooperation between the public and private sectors."

    Participants cited that they would take back to their countries an overview of export development issues they did not have before; practical examples and contacts to develop national strategies; and a renewed awareness of linkages. "We are going back with a new understanding of the future role of trade development organizations, and are convinced that we, the business sector, must be engaged with them," said Florence Diya Aya of African Petroleum Plc, who is also a member of the Federal House of Representatives of Nigeria.

    For more information: See ITC's web site on the Executive Forum (http://www.intracen.org/execforum), which contains summaries of papers presented during the meeting and other meeting highlights, or contact Brian Barclay, Executive Forum Coordinator, tel.: +4122 730 0350; fax: +4122 733 8695; e-mail: barclay@intracen.org