Statement at the Geneva Week Session

13 November 2013
ITC News

Speech by Ms. Arancha González, Executive Director, International Trade Centre
Delivered on 13 November 2013 at the Geneva Week Session, ITC Headquarter, Geneva, Switzerland

It is a distinct pleasure to welcome you to the International Trade Centre today. In the history of the Geneva week this is the first time that ITC has been able to host you, the non-resident delegations, at our premises and I thank the WTO for the opportunity to do this. I hope that for the next Geneva week we will have a full day to really get into the specifics of what the ITC does for you, our clients in the developing countries.

You have come to Geneva at a particularly crucial time as the WTO prepares for the 9th Ministerial Conference in Bali. Negotiators are immersed in debates around Trade Facilitation, Agriculture and the Development and LDC package and there is great urgency to ensure that the WTO delivers at Bali including for the Least developed in its Membership.

Today you will have a short respite from the negotiations and instead hear about the flip side of the coin: how the ITC is helping the small and medium sized enterprises, the trade promotion authorities, the trade and investment support institutions and developing country governments to take advantage of existing and future trade opportunities.

At ITC we are involved not just in assisting you to adopt and align with multilateral and regional trade rules but to help you to see the opportunities and possibilities which trade offers to you by providing the tools to allow your SMEs- the main drivers of growth in your economies- to fully use trade as a platform for growth, development and employment generation.

Many of your countries are still struggling to adjust in this post-economic crisis period. Many of you have been caught in the tail winds. This is true for the Caribbean who continues to adjust to increasing debt to GDP ratios and increasing erosion of the traditional sources of income such as tourism and agriculture. This is true for many of the LDCs and LLDCs in Africa which continue to be confronted with challenging infrastructure and regulatory environments for intra-regional and extra-regional trade. And in the Pacific where the geographical complexities of being far from markets remains a challenge.

Some of these constraints are endemic of course. One will never be able to increase the size of Samoa or of St. Kitts or transform the geographical landlockedness of Malawi. But innovations in transportation, communications and the increasing relevance of regional and global production and supply chains have created opportunities which just twenty years ago, were not there. The concept of landlockedness is increasingly being turned on its head to one of landlinkedness and rather than bring SIDS closer to markets we are now bringing markets closer to SIDS by providing opportunities for them to be links in these value chains.

This is not to underestimate the challenges that remain, but rather it is important to highlight the opportunities for new and non-traditional ways of looking at trade and the role of developing countries in trade.

The ITC as many of you know is an agency of the WTO and the United Nations focused on the private sector and the business community, specifically the SMEs. There are many slogans that have been used to describe the work of the organisation: 100% Aid for Trade; Export Impact for Good; the one-stop shop for export-ready SMEs.

In 2014 we will celebrate our 50th Anniversary. And I believe that never before has the ITC been more relevant. ITC’s modus operandi will continue to be characterised by a practical “hands-on” approach to assisting policymakers, institutions and SMEs to turn trade opportunities into trade flows. Through our emphasis on capacity-building of “impact multipliers”, the results of our interventions remain and are replicated in-country. More importantly, the reach of these interventions is made deeper and more sustainable.

The discussions at the United Nations on the post 2015 debate recognises that SMEs will be the engines of growth and employment for the future: for both developing and developed countries. And your economies are essentially constituted by a framework of small, medium and micro enterprises that provide employment opportunities and serve as incubators of innovation, of cultural preservation and of economic growth potential. SMEs have generated two-thirds of all formal jobs in developing countries in Africa, Asia-Pacific and Latin America and the Caribbean, and up to 80 per cent of formal jobs in low income countries. And this is just counting the formal sector. The reach of the informal sector is even greater.

SMEs are expected to create most of the jobs that the estimated 470 million people entering the labour market by 2030 will need. Many of these job-seekers will be women and youth. Trade, and specifically a focus on helping SMEs to become greater engines of growth, must be a central feature of the Post-2015 dialogue. ITC’s job is to capacitate these SMEs, and the agencies which support them such as TPOs, TSIs, Services Coalitions and Chambers of Commerce, to become to become internationally competitive and export-ready agents of growth.

This afternoon you will have a snap shot of some of the products and solutions which the ITC offers. What we do is practical, demand led, results focused and engineered to increase the potential of SMEs to become players in the regional and global market place. We like to think we are the McKinsey of the UN!

You will gain an insight into the work that the ITC undertakes in the areas of NTMs and quality standards; services; e-solutions; our regional programmes in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific; our ground-breaking work on women and trade and on ethical fashion and an insight into how you can keep up to date on our knowledge products and the global public goods which we offer such as the web-accessible market analysis tools that any developing country can use free-of-cost. You will also have a brief presentation on the independent external evaluation which is being conducted on the ITC.

I hope that this brief overview of what ITC does and can do for your economies will stimulate deeper relationships between the non-resident countries and the organisation. Our work is in the field connecting to policy makers and to the private sector and there is scope for deepening the capacity building which we do in your countries. Today should be the start of a new dialogue. Once again I welcome your presence today and I wish you an interesting afternoon of deliberations.

Thank you