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    Partner Views: Business and WTO Negotiations


    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 3/2002

    World Tr@de Net members attending a workshop in Geneva.

    What are the main concerns of the business community in developing and transition economies in preparing for current WTO negotiations? How are they making their interests known?

    Trade Forum asked members of ITC networks for

    their views.Albania: offering business its only opening

    Since beginning in March 2001, our network has been a lively one. Members include international trade specialists in different ministries, universities, business organizations and economic institutions, as well as interested business people. The network links the business community and the Albanian Government, fostering dialogue about WTO rules and progress in liberalization.

    After several introductory training events on WTO issues, future seminars will deal with trade remedies (antidumping and countervailing measures), the Doha Development Agenda and ongoing negotiations in agriculture, services and trade-related intellectual property rights.

    Why is our network important to the business community? It is the only network and the only programme in Albania that offers training [for business] in the field of WTO issues.

    Dritan Meta, Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Tirana, Albania
    World Tr@de Net Country Facilitator

    Bangladesh: liberalization is not enough

    For Bangladesh, with a narrow resource base, the new WTO round poses both challenges and prospects. Over the years we are realizing that a vibrant and dynamic private sector is the key to economic progress. Though the domestic private sector is still a fledgling, the door has been thrown wide open to foreign investment to stimulate our economy.

    Business communities of Bangladesh, in preparing for negotiations on the Doha Development Agenda, are concerned about capacity building, market access and overcoming supply-side constraints. Mere trade liberalization and facilitation is not enough, however, to create a level playing field for trade. To make the dream of benefits for all through globalization a reality, least developed member countries need investment in potential comparative-advantage sectors.

    Hasanur Rahman Chowdhury, Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dhaka, Bangladesh
    World Tr@de Net Country Facilitator

    Belarus: non-market economy status complicates position

    After holding a "kick off" meeting in December 2001, the Belarussian Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers carried out several activities with country network members.

    In June, parliament held a hearing on the process for Belarus to enter the WTO. Network members took an active part in these hearings. Recommendations to the Council of Ministers were adopted as a result. Participants affirmed that Belarussian membership of WTO is in our long-term interest. The discussion focused on conditions and consequences of the process, as well as on the structure and content of preparatory and protective measures.

    Vladimir Vorobiev, Deputy Executive Director, Marketing and Overseas Department Chief, Belarussian Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers, Minsk, Belarus
    World Tr@de Net Country Facilitator

    Bulgaria: preparing service negotiations

    The Bulgarian World Tr@de Net helped to prepare the Bulgarian negotiating position in the services sector under the Doha Development Agenda. In June 2002, thanks to branches of the Bulgarian Industrial Association, among them the Bulgarian Building and Construction Chamber, we presented the Ministry of Economy with problems to consider for the WTO negotiations on construction services - key export services for Bulgaria. Industry representatives also participated in a three-day WTO seminar on GATS organized by the Ministry of Economy.

    Borislav Georgiev, Managing Director for International Economic Relations, Bulgarian Industrial Association, Sofia, Bulgaria
    World Tr@de Net Country Facilitator

    Cambodia: starting up

    The Ministry of Commerce established a World Tr@de Net Focal Point in June 2001. It has since been functioning with very few resources, drawing on existing projects such as cooperation with the Integrated Framework programme. Initially, a series of dialogues was held. The network made available to all members materials such as ITC's Business Guide to the World Trading System along with legal and business studies, all translated into Khmer.

    Prasith Suon, Ministry of Commerce, Association of South-east Asian Nations and International Organizations Division, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
    World Tr@de Net Country Facilitator

    El Salvador: new information channels

    World Tr@de Net has helped the business community in El Salvador to intensify its dialogue with the Government's negotiating team. This will strengthen our participation during the next round of trade talks.

    World Tr@de Net helped us to organize consultation seminars on the negotiations in various subsectors and to create a permanent section of the specialist review published every two months by El Salvador's Agro-Industry Chamber. The title of this section will be Agriculture in the WTO, starting in October 2002.

    Rigoberto Monge, Coordinator, Sector Privado para las Negociaciones Comerciales Internacionales ODASP, San Salvador, El Salvador
    World Tr@de Net Country Facilitator

    Estonia: a new voice

    The Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ECCI) expects that the primary benefit of a new trade round is to be a contributing party. The simple chance to monitor and contribute to the exchange of opinions on matters of pivotal importance to the Estonian business community is positive.

    Businesses are already beginning to be active in negotiating vital issues with representatives of relevant ministries or state departments. The ECCI has an important role here. Under an initiative of the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a dozen working groups are being started in which state officials and specialists can exchange views with experienced business representatives from different sectors of the economy.

    Lidia Friedenthal, Acting Manager of the Foreign Trade Department, Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Tallinn, Estonia
    World Tr@de Net Country Facilitator

    Hungary: agriculture, services, intellectual property

    Looking at the Doha Development Agenda, Hungarian business gives special importance to agriculture, trade in services and intellectual property. Hungarian business is also concerned about dumping charges that Hungarian exporters face in foreign markets. A World Tr@de Net seminar in June 2002 brought together the important stakeholders from other networks in the region: business and government officials from Central and Eastern Europe. It raised a lot of interest in the Hungarian business community.

    Szilvia Bognár, Project Manager, Hungarian Investment and Trade Development Agency, Budapest, Hungary
    World Tr@de Net Country Facilitator

    Kazakhstan: resolution outlines business concerns

    The Government named the Confeder-ation of Employers as its partner in dialogues with business on Kazakhstan's accession to WTO. There are now 12 working groups for different branches of industry, each developing proposals on tariff and non-tariff issues to be presented to the Government.

    After round tables on WTO issues, a national conference was held with the support of the United States Agency for International Development and a local business in July 2002. A resolution adopted at this conference noted: "For exporters, the most important [issue] is determining the procedures for antidumping investigations concerning Kazakhstan goods in international markets. In addition, enterprises oriented mainly to local markets need special attention… to enable a smooth… entrance onto world markets. So far, efforts for a concerted position of Government and business have not worked out. It is necessary to agree on protective measures using a selective approach for individual segments of the national economy, taking into account their potential development over the next 10 to15 years."

    The resolution also declared that the pace and intensity of negotiations for WTO accession makes it urgent to put into place a mechanism for dialogue between relevant government bodies and business "on a constant and constructive basis". The resolution suggested establishing information centres to inform businesses about the negotiations and training exporters and advisers in WTO issues.

    Tatyana Zhdanova, Head, Foreign Economic Relations Department, Union of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Bishkek, Kazakhstan
    World Tr@de Net Country Facilitator

    Kenya: how will Doha's commitments be implemented?

    Major concerns expressed by participants in the Joint Integrated Technical Assistance Programme (JITAP) in Kenya:

    • How will the recommendation in the Doha Ministerial Declaration on assistance and capacity building be implemented?
    • How to emphasize, in the WTO negotiations, the importance of promoting access to existing medicine and research for health care and to draw attention to the need for greater use of traditional remedies, including research into them?
    • Sudden impositions of restrictions on goods from developing countries (e.g. a ban on fish exported from East Africa to the European Union), which adversely affect the livelihoods of large numbers of Kenyans dependent on such exports.

    What can be done? Several steps were suggested:

    • Raise issues such as trade retaliation, pressing for removal of agricultural subsidies, and develop position papers on the stand that the country needs to take.
    • Launch ambitious initiatives by private sector institutions to educate members on issues of major concern, to provide comprehensive recommendations to the National Committee on WTO, revitalized under JITAP.
    • Involve the private sector more at national and international levels on debates relating to multilateral trade issues.

    From JITAP participants, summarized by Anant Vijay, Chief, ITC Office for Least Developed Countries and Africa

    Nepal: fast-track for LDCs?

    Nepal applied for membership of WTO's forerunner, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, in 1989. This was converted in 1997 to the current WTO application. Membership is likely after the second phase of negotiations with the Working Party, scheduled for late 2002.

    Nepal's business communities are most interested in this process, especially the conditions for LDC access. They are concerned that no LDC countries have acceded since the creation of WTO in 1995. So they eagerly noted the "fast-track" for LDC accession mentioned in the Doha Ministerial Declaration.

    Other concerns: commitments made by other WTO members for special treatment, concessions in the transition period, trade-related technical assistance and capacity building, and market access improvement promised under the Doha Development Agenda to accelerate LDC participation in the multilateral trading system.

    In this respect, Nepalese business communities need more programmes and tools that help them become acquainted with WTO rules and post-Doha developments.

    Bijendra M. Shakya, Lecturer in International Trade, Shanker Dev Campus Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, Nepal
    World Tr@de Net Country Facilitator

    Nicaragua: voice for business

    The Center for Exports and Investment of Nicaragua, dedicated to promoting, increasing and diversifying exports, needs information essential for the business community to enter international markets. Being a member of World Tr@de Net enables it to gather such information for Nicaraguan enterprises.

    An example showing results: a company manufacturing caramels lodged a complaint with the Ministry of Promotion of Industry and Trade against a foreign company suspected of dumping. The ministry investigated in the country of origin, confirmed the suspicion of dumping and imposed an antidumping duty. Knowing the measures relating to international trade helped the Nicaraguan company to survive in the market.

    Ana Cecilia de Peñalba, Officer, Market Intelligence and Trade Information Services, Center for Exports and Investment, Managua, Nicaragua
    World Tr@de Net Country Facilitator

    Pakistan: facts on TRIPS

    One of the sectors that is greatly apprehensive of the WTO regime is the pharmaceutical industry, which views the TRIPS Agreement (and the patents regime) as a major threat.

    After a recent workshop, a participant, concerned about the post-2005 era, asked about the World Tr@de Net and its activities in Pakistan. He immediately expressed the desire to join the network both to benefit from it and to contribute to its functioning. Subsequent discussions with him and, through him, with the industry's leaders, led to a special session on the TRIPS Agreement and its impact on the pharmaceutical industry in Pakistan. This session will serve as the springboard for the network's activities in the country, with industry not only supporting the initiative but actually participating in its activities.

    Mohammad Saeed Akhtar, President, International Trade Initiative, Lahore, Pakistan
    World Tr@de Net Country Facilitator

    Philippines: sounding out the business community

    The Philippine World Tr@de Net members held a forum in February 2002 on "Forging a Business Response to a New Trade Round". This forum and subsequent workshops reviewed the WTO Ministerial Declaration adopted in Doha.

    We then sounded out business people from the various regions through a series of one-day consultations from July to September. As a training aid, network members are developing a CD-ROM that contains a presentation to be shown during workshops and references to the Doha Agenda for decision-makers in business, government, academia and civil society.

    We plan a seminar on "Understanding Market Access Measures for SMEs", complemented by ITC's Trade and Market Access Maps for better understanding by the business community.

    A Philippine network member will bid this year for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Economic Integration Programme, funded by the Canadian International Development Agency, in cooperation with the Asia-Pacific Foundation of Canada. This will help us to organize further seminars for the business community on the Doha Agenda.

    Allan Reyes, Chief, Planning and Programming Division, Philippine Trade Training Center, Pasay City, Philippines
    World Tr@de Net Country Facilitator

    Swaziland: identifying the gaps

    From a discussion with network members on the objectives of the World Tr@de Net, we identified loopholes in the existing system such as the absence of a sustainable trade policy for Swaziland. The dialogue also made members realize the importance of coordinating our efforts with partner countries in the region. Recently discussions and exchange of experience took place with the Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR) countries of Latin America about creating a free trade area.

    Rechi Dlamini, Economist, Mhlume Sugar Company, Mhlume, Swaziland
    World Tr@de Net Country Facilitator

    Uganda: educating stakeholders

    Among JITAP participants in Uganda, concerns about the Doha Development Agenda include:

    • Maintaining provisions for special and differential treatment for developing countries and making them mandatory.
    • Putting articles in TRIPS on technology transfer into operation.
    • Protecting traditional plant-based medicines through patents.
    • Protecting the services sector by giving LDCs greater flexibility to take emergency safeguard measures.
    • Sensitizing the business community and providing more in-depth training of public officials so that they provide better advice.

    What steps are being taken? WTO sensitization workshops are taking place throughout the country to educate stakeholders about WTO matters. The Inter-Institutional Committees set up under JITAP, in which the private sector is appropriately represented, are meeting regularly. Direct dialogue is also taking place between the National Chamber of Commerce, private sector foundations and public officials on WTO issues.

    From JITAP participants, summarized by Anant Vijay, ITC.

    The above contributions are edited excerpts, compiled by Peter Hulm, Peter Gallagher and Natalie Domeisen.