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WTO General Council recognizes ITC’s contribution to LDC accession, the Cotton Initiative and the Aid for Trade agenda

8 December 2011
ITC News

The WTO General Council acknowledged several ITC accomplishments in its report adopted at its annual meeting on 30 November in Geneva. It highlighted ITC’s assistance to Least Developed Countries in their WTO accession process, the organization’s role in the Cotton Initiative and its contribution to the Aid for Trade agenda 

 WTO Members, as represented in the General Council, reviewed progress achieved in 2011 in various WTO Committees, including the Committee on Trade and Development, the Initiative on Cotton, and ongoing processes, such as WTO accession. The following excerpts relate to the ITC-specific mentions from related WTO documents circulated at the meeting. 

WTO Accession

The Director General reported on WTO Accessions, through its 2011 Annual Report (WT/ACC/15) (downloadable from http://docsonline.wto.org using the document number), which emphasizes the importance of technical assistance provided to Least Developed Countries under the joint WTO-ITC Trade Capacity for Acceding LDCs Programme. As the report states: “In 2011, assistance to acceding LDCs continued to be provided under the joint WTO-ITC programme, to Ethiopia, Lao PDR, Samoa and Vanuatu. The joint programme is designed to contribute to the implementation of the 2002 Guidelines on LDCs’ accessions by focusing on the private sector’s trade-related technical assistance needs.” It adds “by facilitating a structured public-private dialogue and an inclusive process, it also helps acceding LDC governments secure stakeholder buy-in. Launched by the Director-General in December 2009, the programme continues to welcome additional acceding LDCs on the basis of available funding.” (WTO/ACC/15, p.5).  

After the accession of Samoa and Vanuatu, expected to take place during the WTO’s Ministerial meeting later this month, there are still ten LDCs in the Accession process: Afghanistan, Bhutan, Comoros, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Lao PDR, Liberia, Sudan, Sao Tome and Principe, and Yemen. ITC  continues to provide assistance to Ethiopia, Lao PDR and Yemen, as well as post-accession assistance to Samoa. The biggest number of countries outside the Multilateral Trading System remain LDCs.  

Cotton trade and development

As a separate agenda item on the General Council Agenda, WTO Director General Pascal Lamy reported on his consultations as part of the Initiative on Cotton, linking trade and development issues in the cotton sector. The report (WT/CFMC/DG/4) states that “South-South Co-operation for Cotton Sector Development is an important development in the engagement of Members on cotton. Progress has been made with the support and leadership of Brazil, China and India, […] and the International Trade Centre (ITC). This aspect of the Organization’s work on the Development Assistance Aspects of Cotton continues to yield significant dividends with positive knock-on effects into other areas of work in the WTO.” (WT/CFMC/DG/4, p.3). Since 2008, ITC has provided targeted support to more than 15 cotton producing developing countries in Africa to design and implement cotton sector strategies, including developing linkages with buyers and industrial users in other developing countries.   

Since 2003, the Director General has held consultations on the developmental aspects of cotton trade, following active involvement of the so-called ‘cotton-four’ countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali). Stressing the necessity for continued engagement, Mr Lamy stated in the report: “I encourage the Members involved to sustain their efforts.” 

Committee on Trade and Development: Aid-for-Trade and Technical Assistance for LDCs

The 2011 Annual Report of the Committee on Trade and Development (WT/COMTD/74) was up for review by WTO members, providing insights into progress made on the areas of work, including the Committee’s engagement on Aid for Trade.  

Under Aid for Trade, the role of the private sector figured prominently as one of the headings in its Work Programme, which established ITC’s role in the inclusion of small- and medium-sized enterprises and micro-enterprises within the Aid for Trade initiative. 

This year’s work of the Committee on Trade and Development involved the preparations for the  Third Global Review of Aid for Trade, held in Geneva in July. (For ITC’s contribution see http://www.intracen.org/about/aid-for-trade/.) In 2010-2011, ITC ensured representation of the private sector in Regional Reviews of Aid for Trade in Libreville (for the Central Africa region), Jakarta (for the Asia region) and Baku (for Central Asia). The Committee’s Annual report states that “the Third Global Review of Aid for Trade provided an opportunity to evaluate progress, and highlighted that concrete positive results had been achieved” (p. 6). Following the 2011 Aid for Trade Review, future focus areas have been defined in a draft document (JOB/DEV/12/12/Rev2): “The draft Aid-for-Trade Work Programme […] covers the period 2012-2013 and is focused around the following headings: resource mobilization, mainstreaming, regional dimension, private sector, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of implementation, and development effectiveness. The aim of the work programme is to promote deeper coherence and an on-going focus on Aid for Trade, notably on showing results, which will generate continued impetus to the implementation process.” 

Finally, the report mentioned ITC’s 44th Joint Advisory Group meeting, held on 16-17 December 2010, where “the Group had expressed satisfaction at the progress made in embedding results-based management into the ITC’s work’, as well as ‘ITC’s growing emphasis on regionally structured solutions, while stressing the importance of the country ownership of projects.” (WT/COMTD/74, p. 3)