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    ITC in Review


    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 2/2003 

    TC's achievements in the last 15 months give a taste of what is to come.

    In a changing environment for trade-related technical assistance, ITC's recent achievements in trade development helped it crystallize its vision for the future. This vision rests on growing in its niche specializations, providing innovative technical assistance and working towards ever-greater impact in the field - all the while emphasizing working partnerships with other key players and maximizing efficiency.

    Highlights from 2002 

    A full rundown of ITC activities during the year is contained in the Annual Report 2002. Below are a selection. In 2002, ITC:

    • began the full-scale implementation of its Export-led Poverty Reduction Programme to support community initiatives and facilitate the replication of success stories at the national level and in other countries. ITC is now engaged in ten countries and eager to be present in more;

    • launched the second phase of its effective and popular South-South Trade Promotion Programme;

    • inaugurated a new technical support activity, the ITC Competitiveness Tools Fair;

    • established an E-trade Unit to coordinate e-facilitated trade development strategy thanks to an increase in its regular budget;

    • produced the first-ever model joint venture contract for use by small and medium-sized enterprises in developing countries and economies in transition. Fifty top lawyers from all over the world donated their time for this purpose;

    • increased its field-level support under the Integrated Framework. It is now implementing national projects in seven of the 19 IF countries; and

    • completed the pilot phase of its programme to help export services. ITC can now rely on a solid technical foundation to launch a broader programme, which could become a centre of growth of technical cooperation activities.

      To a large extent, ITC's performance was due to donors' positive response and to constructive, open dialogue with beneficiaries and donors. Credit also goes to ITC's staff, who responded to the challenge of meeting higher delivery targets, continued to generate new ideas and combined entrepreneurship with teamwork.

      A glimpse at 2003 

      At its annual meeting in April, ITC reported on developments from the start of 2003, including that it:

    • helped launch the second phase of JITAP, thanks to the Governments of Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Norway and Sweden, which have already pledged half the total budget required to implement this four-year programme. The number of beneficiary countries will double to 16 under the initial phase of JITAP II;

    • initiated "Business for Cancún" to reinforce public-private sector partnerships in preparation for the September 2003 WTO Ministerial Conference. With the involvement of WTO and UNCTAD specialists, ITC held regional workshops in Asia, southern Africa, Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe, the Caribbean and West Africa, prior to the Cancún Ministerial Conference;

    • launched the pilot phase of a new multi-million dollar programme, "Building African Capacity for Trade". Initially covering four African countries, and eventually up to ten more, this 'joint venture' with the Trade Facilitation Office of Canada supports the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) Market Access Initiative, with proven trade promotion tools, and complements IF and JITAP efforts admirably well;

    • began a programme of national export strategy development in partnership with public-private sector strategy design teams in Jamaica, Kenya, St. Lucia and Sri Lanka;

    • introduced the financial applications of the UN-developed Integrated Management Information System (IMIS). Designed to maximize efficiency and transparency and to ensure accountability, IMIS is the only reporting system now used throughout ITC. The system calls for comprehensive changes in workflows and was successfully adopted by ITC staff; and

    • completed the initial stage of revamping its web site, to make it more accessible. ITC is strengthening the site to make it more useful to French- and Spanish-speaking clientele. It is committed to ensuring that ITC technical assistance is effectively delivered through 'cyber-collaboration' everywhere appropriate.

      Staying on target 

      To maintain its target of 20% average annual growth in delivery in 2003 and 2004, ITC needs to work on clear assumptions and take concrete steps. It has to assume that extra-budgetary resources and regular budget will grow consequently and in a timely manner, and it needs to have specific ideas on the activities it proposes to undertake.

      ITC has a 'shopping list' that includes national and regional projects, the expansion of some programmes in higher demand and some special undertakings.

      For instance, it seeks to enlarge its World Tr@de Net Programme, adapt the companion Business for Cancún initiative on the basis of the Cancún Ministerial Conference results and combine them with the popular TradeMaps series and quality management programmes in a Competitiveness Package for SMEs.

      ITC will fulfil, and, hopefully, exceed its commitments under the second phase of JITAP and the IF.

      It wishes to exploit the full potential of its nascent programmes on national export strategy, export of services and export-led poverty reduction.

      It wants to better understand the contribution it could make to the marketing of tourism in developing and transition economies which are selecting that route to compensate for their limited supply of goods for exports. ITC is studying this potential with the World Tourism Organization.

      In addition, it is working on large initiatives which will unfold in the months ahead:

    • With the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (seco) of Switzerland and Bancomext of Mexico, ITC is preparing for the next Executive Forum which, exceptionally, will move from Montreux, Switzerland to Cancún and be held under the theme of "Business for Development" in the three days immediately preceding the WTO Ministerial Conference.

    • In association with InfoDev of the World Bank and seco, ITC is working on a practical contribution to the World Summit on the Information Society meeting to be held in Geneva in December 2003.

    • With the Malta External Trade Corporation, ITC will co-host the fifth World Conference of Trade Promotion Organizations in Malta in October 2004.

      Towards ITC's 40th anniversary 

      Finally, ITC is sketching out ideas to celebrate its 40th anniversary next year. It would like to use the occasion to thank those who have helped to build ITC and, looking to the future, to put in place a lasting contribution to trade development.

      In this context, ITC is looking into launching a Trade Fellowship Programme for young staff members of trade support institutions in developing and transition economies. For years, ITC has run a popular internship programme. However, almost all interns are from the North due to the high cost of coming to and living in Geneva. One dream for ITC's 40th anniversary is to associate with others to set up a programme to award short-term fellowships to young trade leaders from developing and transition economies who could develop homegrown solutions to their trade development challenges. ITC invites interested parties to help realize this dream.

      ITC still has a lot to learn, but at 39 years of age, it has matured into a lean and confident organization. It looks to its partners to make plans, together, to add to the old adage that "life begins at 40".

      This article is adapted from J. Denis Bélisle's opening statement at the 36th session of the Joint Advisory Group on the International Trade Centre, on 28 April 2003.