Heads of WTO, UNCTAD and ITC agree to deepen cooperation and strengthen multilateral trade agenda for development

23 September 2013
ITC News

The three Geneva-based trade agencies must cooperate effectively and offer complementary approaches to developing countries, the new heads of the agencies agreed. The leaders of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the International Trade Centre (ITC), who took office on 1 September, spoke together publicly for the first time at a panel at UNCTAD’s annual Trade and Development Board meeting in Geneva earlier today.

The three agencies must “mutually re-enforce each other,” particularly in tackling non-tariff measures (NTMs), which have proliferated as tariffs on most goods and services have come down, said UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi in his opening statement. NTMs disproportionally affect least developed economies, whose exporters are less well equipped to deal with them, he said.

The three agencies need to work together to identify opportunities for small economies and assist them in developing policies and best practices that will allow them to participate more fully in global value chains, said WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo. “Making sure that countries benefit from opportunities is an area where the three organizations are well equipped to work together,” he said.

Reaching consensus before the WTO’s Ninth Ministerial Conference in Bali, Indonesia in December would contribute significantly to export-led development in the poorest countries, Mr. Azevêdo said. “Multilateralism is the best tool for the smaller economies and smaller countries to make their stands known and participate in rule-based trade,” he said.

The three agencies need to move their partnership to the next level, said ITC Executive Director Arancha González. “Our cooperation with UNCTAD and WTO will deepen including joint efforts on WTO accession and in areas such as investment, value chains, women and trade, and youth and the environment,” she said. “The work of ITC is very much premised on the notion that trade can, should, and does lead to sustainable and inclusive growth for developing countries including for the least developed and the most vulnerable,” she added. (Click here to see full statement.)

ITC welcomes the recognition of SMEs in the emerging Post-2015 Development Agenda as engines of inclusive and sustainable economic growth, Ms. González said. “The development and economic growth of SMEs locally, regionally and internationally is critical, not least of all, because SMES are expected to create most of the jobs that the estimated 470 million people entering the labour market by 2030 will need,” she said. ITC, as the one-stop-shop development partner for SMEs, plans to scale up its support to the sector in coming years, she added.

The Post-2015 Development Agenda is set to provide focus for global development following the 2015 deadline set for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). While the MDGs – which range from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education – set milestones for global and national development efforts, the Post-2015 Development Agenda is expected to also focus on the means that will allow countries to reach these goals. As stated by the recent Report of High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, a shortcoming of the MDGs was that they did not integrate the economic, social and environmental aspects of sustainable development, and one of the recommendations of the High-level Panel of Eminent Persons is a profound economic transformation for jobs and inclusive growth.