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    Meeting the Competitiveness Challenge


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

    The global trading system is redefining business. Being competitive in today's interconnected economy means working within the rules of the trading system, as well as responding to more demanding markets. To meet the challenge, small firms in developing countries need efficient, innovative business practices and a proactive trade support infrastructure.

    On balance, trade liberalization has improved the economic situation for most countries, despite some setbacks. Completing the current round of WTO negotiations would provide further gains, especially to developing countries, but many don't see a significant interest in the talks. Arguably, the limited number of globally competitive goods and services they can offer means global access talks are largely irrelevant. But this view is shortsighted, as more business people in developing countries, and those who support them, are recognizing.

    To avoid being marginalized, developing countries need to participate more effectively in the ongoing trade negotiations and, at the same time, work to be more competitive at exports.

    Rubens Ricupero, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), addressed ITC staff in October 2003 about its contribution to the UNCTAD XI conference to be held in São Paolo, Brazil in June 2004. Analysing the stalemate in trade negotiations at Cancún, he said: "Only countries with a supply capacity have an interest in participating in multilateral trade talks. What can those who are unprepared to export have to say? Countries need to be able to put forth products for negotiation for which they have or could have a comparative advantage.

    "The current round of WTO negotiations are an opportunity to sensitize policy-makers to building export capacity to compete in the world economy," he continued.

    In the area of trade and development, Mr. Ricupero outlined three cross-cutting issues that countries can target to make a difference in their economic and social situation: trade and poverty; trade and gender; and trade and the creative industries. UNCTAD XI will address these issues. Responding to Mr. Ricupero's call, ITC supports these priorities at UNCTAD XI and beyond.

    ITC's contribution to UNCTAD XI

    ITC is participating in and leading events that explore how countries, trade support institutions and firms can build business competitiveness.

    UNCTAD's Rio Trade Week - Rio de Janeiro

    • Round Table on Export Competitive-ness - 7 June. ITC will contribute to this pre-conference event, at which participants will share experiences and, where possible, recommend issues for developing countries to consider in their efforts to expand and diversify exports. ITC-led events

    • Business for Development - 8-9 June. The initiative brings together business leaders and government negotiators to shape effective national negotiating positions. This meeting is primarily for Latin American and Caribbean countries; ITC is organizing meetings for other regions throughout 2004.
    • LatinPharma 2004 - 9-12 June. LatinPharma helps create business opportunities for small and medium-sized Latin American firms in the pharmaceutical and related sectors. Organized with partners in Brazil, the event includes a business matchmaking forum; information sessions with industry experts; and a preparatory e-conference. For details, see the web site(http://www.latinpharma.net/expo2004).

    UNCTAD XI - São Paolo

    • High-level Panel on Creative Industries and Development - 13 June. Developing their creative industries is a new way for developing countries to create wealth through trade. J. Denis Bélisle, ITC's Executive Director, a panellist for this session, will voice the export concerns of visual artists.
    • FAO Symposium on the Role of Agriculture in Development - 13 June. ITC will present case studies from its projects in agriculture, trade and development.
    • High-level Round Table on Trade and Poverty - 14 June. ITC will highlight its activities to reduce poverty through trade, with experiences from its Export-led Poverty Reduction Programme. One example is a community tourism project in the Brazilian state of Bahia.
    • Round Table on Export and Investment Strategies to Support Tourism Development - 14 June. ITC will introduce a tourism strategy development template it is designing with the World Tourism Organization and UNCTAD. Tourism is an important service industry for many developing countries.
    • High-level Interactive Round Table on Trade and Gender - 15 June. ITC's experience shows that women engaged in trade are improving their lives and those of their employees, families and communities, and more needs to be done to support them. ITC's Executive Director, a panellist for this session, will advocate for trade policy-makers to take into account their specific needs during this debate on policy issues surrounding gender and trade.
    • Biotrade Partnership Experiences - 15 June. ITC's Executive Director is a panellist in this side event dealing with trade in biodiversity products.
    • Investment Analysis Map Launch - 16 June. ITC and UNCTAD will launch their joint Trade and Investment Analysis Map during the Annual Conference of the World Association of Investment Promotion Agencies.
    • Forum on Services Trade Liberaliza-tion - 17 June. For developing countries to participate more fully in the WTO's General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) negotiations, they need to assess their service sectors. The forum will review effective ser-vice sectors in different economies, and challenges for small service providers. ITC will demonstrate its online tool, the GATS Consultation Kit, which facilitates private sector inputs to the negotiations.
    • JITAP: Capacity-building in Assuring Developmental Gains from the Multilateral Trading System - 18 June. This event will showcase the Joint ITC/UNCTAD/WTO Integrated Technical Assistance Programme in Selected Least Developed and Other African Countries (JITAP) as a practical, integrated response to building and strengthening trade capacity in African countries. ITC-led events

    • Building Business Competitiveness - 17 June. The session focuses on promoting, supporting and achieving trade competitiveness. It showcases governments, trade support institutions and businesses that are working to enhance competitiveness, with a view to applying successful ideas in new export development strategies.
    • ITC Competitiveness Tools Fair - 13-17 June. The fair features ITC tools and products to improve competitiveness for countries, sectors and firms.

    For more information about ITC's contribution to UNCTAD XI, contact R. Badrinath, Director of ITC's Division of Trade Support Services, at badrinath@intracen.org

    Prema de Sousa, Associate Editor of Forum, prepared these pages. Bruce Shepherd, ITC Senior Business Advisory Services Officer, contributed to the listing on page 5.