Statement by the Chair of the 48th session of the Joint Advisory Group of UNCTAD, ITC and the WTO

11 June 2014
ITC News

Delivered on 11 June 2014 - WTO headquarters, Geneva, Switzerland

Excellencies, Distinguished participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning and welcome to this 48th session of the International Trade Centre Joint Advisory Group. I am very pleased and most honoured to have the opportunity to chair the Joint Advisory Group, and I would like to thank Ambassador Pierce for her opening remarks and warm welcome.

Let me begin by thanking the WTO and Director General Roberto Azevedo for hosting this meeting. Let me also warmly welcome Mr. Mukhisa Kituyi Secretary-General of UNCTAD and Ms. Arancha González, Executive Director of ITC. It is the first JAG for all three of them in their current positions and we are certainly eager to hear their vision for ITC later this morning.

I am looking forward to our discussions over the next two days and I trust that the international community will continue to provide support to ITC to enable it to continue its important work within the global Aid for Trade agenda. Those of you that participated at the ITC 50 year anniversary event here at the WTO yesterday were able to hear first-hand the many achievements of ITC over the last five decades, as well as the continued need for support in trade-related technical assistance and the increased role ITC can play in providing solutions to developing countries. For those of you that missed the event, you could access the 50th anniversary pages on ITC’s web site that carry the client testimonials and case studies on ITC’s achievements.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

We saw yesterday how much ITC has grown in terms of its budget and impact over the last 50 years. I am sure I speak for many of us in this room that we hope this trend of growth will not only continue but also accelerate: at a time when global trade patterns are shifting, when international trade is becoming an ever more integral part of the production process, it is of utmost importance that our economies are well-prepared for the increased cross-border cooperation that increasingly complex and integrated value chains require.

Against this background, there is an increased risk that the most vulnerable countries could fall further behind in international competitiveness: these countries, and the small- and medium-sized enterprises that dominate their economies often do not have the means to take advantage of emerging opportunities available to them as a result of trade liberalization. It is not enough to give Least Developed Countries preferential treatment. LDCs need more than access to markets to compete: they need to produce goods and services for which there is actual demand. This is why ITC, working with SMEs on the ground and producing tangible results, plays such a crucial role.

As we can see in the 2013 Annual Report, ITC have trained over 15,000 participants in capacity building workshops, directly connected 665 enterprises with buyers to transact business and indirectly connected many more through the 140 trade support institutions, whose services and management capacities have been improved as a result of ITC assistance.

Perhaps more revealing than the statistics are the stories in this Annual Report that bring ITC’s work to life. The woman entrepreneur in rural Laos whose income increased 80% as a result of an ITC project that connected her to the tourism value chain. The Ugandan coffee farmer, who can now afford to pay for his children’s school fees, because following a quality improvement project his processed coffee beans fetch over four times the price.

It is important that ITC continues this work but that it also focuses on measuring its achievements and impact systematically: the ultimate goal must be to use trade to lift people out of poverty, and any agency active in TRTA needs to be able to demonstrate that linkage.

ITC, no doubt, has an important role to play in assisting least developed countries in overcoming their challenges. At the same time, ladies and gentlemen, it is important to keep in mind the needs of middle income countries as well. In my own country’s experience, regional integration through ASEAN has helped the range of LDCs and developing Members move forward together and we are positive that we will achieve the ASEAN Economic Community next year. Malaysia will take over the rotating ASEAN chairmanship for 2015. ITC has assumed various supporting roles in this process by providing various technical assistance and capacity building to integrate companies in individual ASEAN Member states into the global value chain.

Excellencies, Distinguished participants, Ladies and Gentlemen

ITC’s work would not be possible without the renewed confidence of the international community and the voluntary support of those countries and multilateral donors that have contributed significant amounts to the ITC trust fund over the years.

Tomorrow afternoon, I will have the privilege to invite you to announce the extra-budgetary contributions of your respective countries to the ITC Trust Fund for 2014 and the years to come.

After this brief introduction, please allow me to come back to the immediate objective of our meeting over the next two days, which is to take stock of ITC’s achievements in 2013 as reflected in its Annual Report, discuss the independent evaluation of ITC, which was carried out over the last six months, and review ITC’s draft strategic plan for the 2015-2017 period.

This morning, Mr. Azevedo, Mr. Kituyi, and Ms. González will address the meeting. Within the context of her opening speech, Ms. González will share with us her vision for the organization after her nine months in office. But before that there will be a short video of birthday messages to ITC on its 50th anniversary.

After this delegations will have the opportunity to make interventions of a general nature related to the discussion on the agenda items from this morning. Please note that there will be further opportunities for delegations to intervene later in the programme.
At 3:00 p.m. ITC’s independent evaluator will present the key findings of the evaluation, and this will be followed by ITC’s management response. Delegations will then have the opportunity to comment on the recommendations from the evaluation.

Tomorrow morning, the floor will again be open for delegations to make statements of a general nature before ITC’s presentation of elements in its draft strategic plan 2015-2017. This will be followed by the announcement of voluntary contributions to the ITC Trust Fund. I will then present the Chair’s report of our proceedings, and the formal session will end with closing remarks from ITC.

Please stay for the special evening entertainment tomorrow, a fashion show displaying products from the collection of Italian-Haitian celebrity designer Stella Jean. ITC’s Ethical Fashion Initiative made possible the production of these outfits and accessories from Burkina Faso, Mali, Kenya and Haiti by improving the capacity of women artisans and entrepreneurs and connecting them to value chains.

Before I give the floor to Mr Azevedo, may I ask if there are any delegations that wish to add any items under other business?