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AITIC's Development

AITIC was created in 1998 as an initiative of the Swiss government, which decided to finance a programme to strengthen the capacity of less-advantaged countries to lead a more effective trade diplomacy. In order for AITIC to become effective immediately, it was set up as a Swiss association, a relatively simple legal structure that could be established rapidly.

The results since AITIC was founded four years ago show that the Agency plays a unique role and has a solid reputation, and that there is growing demand for its services.

Unique role
AITIC, a small, flexible and user-friendly agency occupies a niche among other trade-related organisations in providing delegates with targeted responses to their particular needs and complements the larger organisations' work, which it follows closely.

Solid reputation
Since its creation, AITIC has established a solid reputation among its beneficiaries. Experience shows that it is addressing a genuine need for targeted assistance from less-advantaged countries. AITIC is appreciated by its users and partners for its independence and the quality of its information and analysis.

Growing demand for AITIC's services
Demand for AITIC's services has grown continuously. To respond, the Agency seeks to develop its activities and expand its finances. AITIC plans to reinforce its current services and to provide new services, such as assistance for acceding to the WTO, or information on regional trading agreements and collaboration with regional organisations. AITIC is still financed exclusively by the Swiss government, but other governments are interested to promote the participation of less-advantaged countries in the international trading system. This would be best achieved by turning AITIC into an IGO.

The Revamping of AITIC: The Doha Initiative

In 2001, at the initiative of several Members of the WTO, the Swiss Mission initiated a series of meetings to explore the idea of developing AITIC into an IGO, so that it could build on its past results, continue its work, and fulfil in the future its mission to support the less-advantaged countries. The launch of the Non-Residents' Unit in October 2000 had provided a trigger; it demonstrated AITIC's potential to provide useful services, but it also raised questions of the Agency's limited financing and optimal governance. After discussing AITIC's development, the group decided that the Fourth Session of the WTO Ministerial Conference in Doha was an opportunity for interested parties to support an initiative to "consider the feasibility of transforming AITIC into an Intergovernmental Organisation or by any other means to improve the financial and functional basis of AITIC taking into account other organizations and their mandates".

The signatories invited the Task Force to make a progress report at the UN International Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey (Mexico) from 18 to 22 March 2002.

The Task Force on AITIC's Development - Progress Report due in Monterrey

As part of the United Nations Conference on Financing for Development, held in Monterrey, Mexico, from 18 to 22 March 2002, AITIC organised a side event on 21 March, in conjunction with the Swiss Mission to the WTO, the Swiss Ministry of the Economy (seco) and the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. Representatives of the less-advantaged countries, industrialised countries and international institutions were in attendance. During the event, Ministers adopted the conclusions of the Task Force's Report (for further details, see the Report of the Task Force).

Since then, the Task Force has met in Geneva with the aim of developing by the end of June 2002 an agreement for the transformation of AITIC into an intergovernmental organisation.

Mr J-Denis Bélisle, Executive Director, ITC
H E Dr Rénald Clérismé, Ambassador of Haiti, Co-chair of the AITIC Task Force. Ms Esperanza Durán, Executive Director, AITIC
Mr David Syz, Secretary of State for Economic Affairs of Switzerland
Ms Lakshmi Puri, Director, Division of International Trade in Goods and Services and Commodities, UNCTAD

AITIC’s future funding
AITIC’s transformation has received strong support from donor countries, its funding for the next five years guaranteed by pledges totalling CHF 18 million from Denmark, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom (for further details see Annex 1 on AITIC’s Agreement).

See Report on the Signing Ceremony, list of AITIC Members and table of Members.

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