Trade-policy training with lasting impact

17 septiembre 2012
ITC News
Islamabad-on-the-Aar: Pakistani government trainers develop Swiss-accredited course for civil servants.

Does Baluchistan, Pakistan, or Newfoundland, Canada, have more power to promote investment? Can the negotiations of bilateral trade treaties have a knock-on effect on treaties already in place with other countries?

In a seminar room at the University of Bern’s World Trade Institute, six master trainers from the Pakistan Institute of Trade and Development (PITAD) have recently been busy discussing investment and trade policy questions with their mentor, Anthony Vanduzer, a Professor at the University of Ottawa Law School. Prof. Vanduzer’s two-day class on investment rule-making at the WTI on 6-7 September was part of a three-week course attended by the six PITAD master trainers whose jobs include conducting training courses for Pakistani commerce and trade officials.

Muhammad Shafiq Haider, a PITAD staff member specializing in the multilateral trading system and one of the participants, says: “I am a trainer working with newly inducted officers who will serve the ministry for a long time. As such, this course will have a long-lasting effect.” The real beneficiaries of the courses, however, are business people involved in cross-border trade and investment that his trainees interact with on a daily basis. “They have never heard of this course, or of PITAD, but it is businessmen who will ultimately benefit from getting advice from more knowledgeable civil servants,” he says.

ITC is implementing the trade-policy component of a €10 million European Union-funded project to increase the trade capacity of Pakistan within the framework of a project spearheaded by the UN’s Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

The ultimate goal of the project is to enhance overall trade policy formulation, promote pro-competitive regulatory reforms and increase export competitiveness. When devising trade policy and related regulations, and the implementation of these, government officials need to have sufficient knowledge of the complex and rapidly evolving international trade and investment framework and its interface with the national regulatory landscape. ITC’s approach is to strengthen the capacity of PITAD and its staff, so that they in turn can train government officers – a more sustainable and cost-effective model than international experts training government officials directly, explains Rajesh Aggarwal, Chief of ITC’s Business and Trade Policy Section.

The program also features specially designed activities that seek to develop a comprehensive, regular and well-informed public-private dialogue (PPD) between government officials and the business sector on trade-policy formulation and implementation. The initiative allows for greater participation by the private sector in the creation of the country’s export strategy and other trade-related legislation.

Curriculum development

PITAD participants also develop training modules under mentoring by WTI faculty. Six of the training modules developed by participants in 2011-12 have already received accreditation by the WTI, with seven more currently under development at this autumn’s session. Mr Haider, for instance, is working on a training module on the economic analysis of non-tariff measures under the guidance of University of Lausanne Professor Olivier Cadot. According to Syed Kausar Ali Zaidi, Director of Training and Trade Policy, the ultimate goal of PITAD is to offer a fully accredited Master’s program that meets the exacting standards of the WTI, a global leader in graduate training on trade governance.

PITAD staff has so far trained around 100 officers based on the material they developed as part of their own training at the WTI. Their aim is to train 250-300 officers annually in coming years, says Dr Ali Zaidi.

A further 35 trainee officers have obtained a joint certificate by PITAD from WTI in “International Trade Law and Commercial Diplomacy”. In the coming years, and in line with the expectations of the government, they also plan to offer courses to civil servants from other countries in the region, such as Tajikistan and Sri Lanka.

Dr Ali Zaidi, meanwhile, is developing a module on the trade-related dimensions of environmental and climate change policy, a topic that was not previously covered in PITAD’s own courses. According to Anirudh Shingal, a Senior Research Fellow at WTI who is mentoring a teaching module on the economic analysis of preferential trade agreements, module development consists of taking existing WTI pedagocical material and adapting it to the Pakistani context and audience. In the case of the module Mr Shingal mentors, it means developing the analytical tools to better assess trade agreements already in place by Pakistan or those it contemplates with new partners. The modules emphasize the practical political economy aspects of these agreements rather than focusing too narrowly on the economic theory aspects more fitting to a university course. Master trainers need to work hard: according to the both participants and mentors, the development of each module is expected to take a minimum of 20 work days, which they have to fit in on top of their regular work.

Working for impact

While the WTI conducts similar programs in other countries, such as Vietnam and Peru, the master trainers in these programs tend to be university faculty staff that may perhaps have less direct influence on government policy and the training of civil servants than is the case with PITAD, which is a government agency. “This project has helped us devise a very innovative and unique means of building sustainable trade policy capacity, hopefully able to influence future generations of policy makers and provide them with a firmer analytical base with which to design and implement trade policy whilst also offering PITAD the means to export its own strengthened training services throughout the region”, notes Pierre Sauvé, the WTI’s Deputy Managing Director and Director of Studies who mentored a PITAD module on trade in services last year.

During the course at WTI, the trainers, many of them already expert researchers in their subjects, also acquire stronger pedagogical skills and know-how. “The courses are interactive and relevant to the audience,” says Ms Maliha Qudus, a PITAD researcher who attended one of the courses last year and found it “captivating”. She subsequently applied to participate herself, and is now working on a module on trade remedies. “I do not have a legal background, so I need to work very hard, mostly in my own time” she says. “But I enjoy it.”

Many trainers, while experts on trade, do not have experience in dealing with investment issues, which makes today’s classes particularly key, says Rana Shehzad Ahmad, director at the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan. When negotiating investment and trade treaties, developed countries typically bring their own blueprints and ask Pakistan to simply sign on the dotted line. “This is why it is critical that we build expertise and understand the consequences of the various commitments Pakistan enters into and see to it that they meet its broader development objectives.”