Statement by ITC Executive Director at the World TPO Network Conference and Award

4 November 2014
ITC News

Delievered by ITC Executive Director on 4 November 2014 in Dubai, UAE


Welcome to this 2014 World TPO Network Conference and Awards! I would like to express my highest recognition for His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, Dubai Crown Prince and Chairman of the Dubai Executive Council, for his patronage of this event, and to our host Dubai Exports, the export promotion agency of the Department of Economic Development in Dubai. This is the first time that the TPO Network World Conference is being held in the Middle East.

I can think of few places in the world more appropriate for the trade promotion community to be gathering today. In our lifetime, we have watched the United Arab Emirates develop itself into a crucial global business hub. If constant reinvention is essential to success in the modern economy, Dubai is living, breathing proof: when synthetic pearls threatened its original industry, it reinvented itself as an entrepot, even before oil came online. Today, it is an international centre for business, finance and leisure.

According to the World Competitiveness Index produced by the business school IMD, the UAE is the eighth most competitive economy in the world. The UAE's exports are equal to 95% of the country's GDP. While this figure might not seem uncommon for a major oil exporter, almost 30% of these exports come from non-oil sectors. This makes it the most diversified economy in the Middle East.

The UAE's success is a powerful lesson for all of us about the importance of strategic, deliberate policymaking. The UAE has carefully mapped out what it needed to do to diversify and become a competitive player in world trade, and set out to achieve its goals through a focused, business-enabling approach.

We applaud this clear direction and determination, the benefits of which can be seen through the nearest window. There is much to learn about the ongoing business transformation of the region, especially how opportunities have been identified and networks formed. We will all have an opportunity to do so during our second conference plenary session on "The GCC and the Arab Region".

Ladies and gentlemen, at this conference – along with the WTPO Awards we celebrate our best institutional performers and what we can collectively learn from them.

Trade and Investment Promotion Organizations are key partners for ITC. We understand the complex environments in which you operate, and the challenges you face. ITC has been working with TPOs around the world for 50 years. We are one of few agencies offering solutions for building the managerial, operational and service delivery capacities of trade support institutions. At ITC, we know TPO performance matters.

Firstly, because they – you – are critical multipliers of support to help small and medium-sized enterprises internationalise. This multiplier effect matters because SMEs everywhere represent the vast majority of business and account for the bulk of jobs. SMEs matter. Helping SMEs internationalise matters even more because it is a guarantee of more and better jobs, growth and development.

Secondly, TPOs are important innovators in support of SME competitiveness and in trade promotion and increasingly for services. This is a key underlying message at this event. That is why, through the WTPO Awards, we recognize outstanding innovation and performance within TPOs from Least Developed Countries; Developing Countries; Developed Countries; and Small Island Developing States.

Finally, TPOs deliver real impact. They make a substantive contribution to expanding the number of new exporters, new trading sectors and new markets. A study conducted a few years ago concluded that TPOs generate around USD 40 in trade for each dollar invested in them. At this time of fiscal constraints in many countries it is worth remembering that investing in TPOs means 'impact'. This is why we need to keep investing in measuring results. We are therefore proud to be embarking in a impact-measurement exercise with the European Network of TPOs.

Our approach to strengthening trade support institutions builds on listening to your experiences, and sharing a range of "good practices" that we have gathered under our institutional benchmarking programme. So far, we have benchmarked more than 30 TPOs, and have shared some amazing "best in class" examples with you. We are working with TPOs on targeted improvement initiatives under our 'Assess, Improve, Measure programme – AIM'. I am excited about the potential of this programme to bring about measurable and sustainable results, and I wish to acknowledge the TPOs that have recently embarked on this journey. We are proud to share their stories and successes with all of you.

This year's Conference is about the linkages between trade and investment. In today's evolving global landscape we can no longer treat these two as separate universes. We need to understand their interactions to better leverage them. Policymakers and institutions need to better appreciate the policy coherence gains and synergies in terms of country branding and resource optimization; and firms need to better appreciate the operational business wins and business network leveraging opportunities.

An example of this growing interconnectedness can be concluded from the recent ITC benchmarking exercise of Costa Rica's TPO, PROCOMER where the alignment between the TPO and Costa Rica's Investment Agency (CINDE) served as an excellent example for many developing countries on how to combine trade and investment promotion.

This important and increasing synergy that exists between trade and investment is impacting on how we develop our tools. ITC is revising its benchmarking model of assessment to better address the increasing investment promotion responsibilities of TPOs. We are also increasingly including inward and outward investment in our business generation (B2B) and business matchmaking. Recent business generation projects between Vietnam and Western Africa have led to new trade flows but also new investments. In our recently launched project linking India and East Africa we are including a specific component on supporting the generation of investment deals.

In essence for ITC's tools to be on the cutting edge – we have to reflect this reality. And one of the most dynamic elements of this nexus between trade and investment is services. The demand from our clients- SMEs, policy makers and TPOs to focus more attention on services is substantial, and we are investing in upgrading our expertise in this sector. We shall delve into all of this in greater detail over these next few days.

There are over 400 TPO experts here today. During these few days, ITC will be very attentive, listening to your views and taking note of your own experiences in these areas. You will help us shape the ITC of the future – and ITC that is more efficient and at the same time more responsive to new trends and to your needs.

I encourage you to take full advantage of this unique amalgamation of experiences, successes and lessons learned to exchange ideas and innovations, to renew old acquaintances and forge new partnerships and modes of collaboration. Moreover, I welcome you to discover and explore better ways to help you lift your countries' trade and development plans and to build more sustainable businesses – businesses for the long term, economically, socially, as well as environmentally.

Thank you for your attention.