Statement by ITC Executive Director at the post-accession forum UNCTAD XIV 2016
19 July 2016 - Nairobi, Kenya
Ladies and gentlemen
The anticipated benefits of integration into the global economy drive countries, such as Liberia and Afghanistan, towards WTO membership. ITC has been a partner to both of these countries in their road to accession. And will remain a steadfast partner moving forward in this important post accession phase what I call 'once in the WTO, go deep'. For of course what really matters now is helping these two countries in particular- especially given their difficult reality- to grow and create jobs through trade.
In its collaboration with the Governments of Liberia and Afghanistan, ITC supported the development of a coherent and inclusive strategy for WTO accession; helped stakeholders build confidence in the WTO system and understand the covered agreements; supported the drafting of services and goods initial offers; assisted in bridging the public sector’s objectives and the private sector needs; and supported the development of WTO consistent reforms through the design of the legislative action plan.
Recognising that it is the thousands of SMEs that will truly benefit from greater predictability and transparency which WTO rules offer and the market access and capacity building opportunities, Liberia and Afghanistan placed consultation with the private sector as a priority.
However, WTO membership is only one part of the story. An important step is to use the accession commitments as the basis for growth and conducive domestic reforms and to implement these reforms in partnership with the private sector.
In this post-accession reform-oriented phase, ITC has a gradual step-by-step approach to support countries in designing and implementing reforms. The first objective is to create a consensus around the reforms. The second objective is to give the means to the private sector to benefit from these reforms by helping them enhance their export competitiveness and connect to market opportunities.
This is precisely what ITC intends to do in the most recently acceded members. In Afghanistan, through an EU funded programme, the ITC will over the next two years design and implement a National Export Strategy with a special focus on quality management, sanitary and phytosanitary infrastructure to provide a plan of action to strengthen Afghanistan’s supply-side and export capacities. We will also assist in the implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, while helping SMEs manage cross-border procedures and ensure balanced and growth-conducive policy formulation processed. Finally we will support public-private consultations and capacity building of all stakeholders for trade policy formulation and implementation.
ITC is currently developing and mobilising resources to support Liberia’s post WTO accession reforms. In Liberia we are supporting the government to develop two sectors identified as having a high grocery and job creating potential: tourism and rubber wood products. I will be in Liberia next week to launch these initiatives with the President.
A recent initiative that Liberia will benefit from is the Mano River Union project which will help them to focus on strengthening the competitiveness of smallholder farmers, micro enterprises and SMEs in selected agro sectors and institutional capacity building. And the good news is that Netherlands has expressed interest in supporting ITC with funding its first phase.
If accession is 'the difficult teenage years' then Post-accession is that period where there is greater clarity, direction and ownership. I look forward to working with all our post-accession partners to bring trade impact for good.