Welcome remarks by the Executive Director at the ITC 50th anniversary celebrations
Delivered on 10 June 2014 - WTO headquarters, Geneva, Switzerland
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Fifty years is a milestone. It is an occasion to celebrate- an opportunity to momentarily look back but a golden ticket to chart the path forward.
I am delighted to be welcoming you here this afternoon as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the International Trade Centre.
In 1964 the ITC was created in response to requests from a number of developing countries for assistance in the field of export promotion. GATT member governments undertook, in May 1964, to build an organisation that would, and I quote, ‘provide trade information and trade promotion advisory services, including the training of personnel required to operate such services’.
The aim was to create an organisation that would deliver ‘an integrated approach to the provision of marketing and technical assistance to the export promotion administrations of developing countries’ in particular to the ‘less-developed countries’ that ‘are not yet able to undertake themselves but which it is to be hoped, in part because of the activities of the Centre itself, they will increasingly be able to undertake in the future’.
In preparing for the 50th anniversary celebrations I dug into the archives of the then GATT and now WTO. It unearthed a number of gems including the report by the Expert Group Chair of the Committee on Trade and Development in March 1965 indicating that
‘After a rather rigorous examination of the Centre's performance in 1964 and the first six weeks of 1965, we are pleased to be able to report that it does adequately fill a deep and widespread need of the developing countries, many of whom have been calling upon it for assistance in various forms. It was the opinion of the Expert Group that, despite the brief history of the Centre and its limited resources during the initial experimental period, it had carried out this accelerated programme in an excellent manner’.
And the expert group minutes of February 1966 detailing the types of training the ITC would provide, and the December 1966 report of the Committee on Trade and Development of the GATT taking place in Uruguay where the four main pillars of ITC’s work was set out as Market Information Service; Publications Programme; Training Programme; and Trade Promotion Advisory Services.
The ITC, this five member organisation in one room around one desk, was also to develop and publish a quarterly Trade Forum magazine. I am pleased to share with you our special 50th anniversary version of that magazine.
The story of the ITC is in many respects the story of the changing topography of trade. Our offer has matured and modified with the transforming needs of the private sector and developing countries and even today we see our suite of solutions being increasingly fine-tuned to address priorities such as non-tariff barriers, trade facilitation, strengthening of trade and investment support institutions, women’s economic empowerment, environmental issues and many more. These all fall under the heading of SME International Competitiveness and I am very pleased today to launch the 50th anniversary publication ’50 years of unlocking SME competitiveness: Lessons for the Future’. This publication is as much a story of the shifting reality of trade as it is about the ITC.
But first we have a panel of very eminent persons. I am truly honoured to have them here today to join the celebrations. This panel gives us a chance to learn from some of our key partners about how the changing global trade landscape is providing new opportunities and challenges for small- and medium-sized enterprises in their countries, and how the ITC can better help them integrate into today’s and tomorrow’s supply chains. It is a discourse on how Aid for Trade has helped and where improvements need to be made.
Our second panel discussion will launch the 50th anniversary publication with contributions and insights from distinguished policy makers and business representatives. The ITC has grown tremendously over the past 50 years- both in terms of the depth of its remit and the impact of its interventions. I am very pleased that today we will have the two former Executive Directors- Patricia Francis and J- Denis Belisle here with us to also give their reflections
We will end our afternoon sessions with a more festive celebration. But before that we will sign three new collaborative agreements in support of ITC’s work on Trade Facilitation - with the Government of Brazil and Apex-Brazil; with Bosch; and with the World Economic Forum and Bain &co. These agreements show our continued partnership with governments, trade support institutions, the private sector and other international agencies and are a clear signal that the next 50 years will be as dynamic as the last 50.
But first I very warmly welcome Mr. Michael Moller, the Acting Director- General of the United Nations office in Geneva to address you. Once, again on behalf of ITC, I welcome you and I hope you enjoy the celebrations.