Images from the inaugural session at the Agency for International Trade Information and Cooperation and information, on February the 23th, 1998, in Geneva.
Ms. Esperanza Durán, Director of AITIC, Mr. Yves Berthelot, Executive Director of the EEC, Mr. Jean-Denis Belisle, Director of the International Trade Center of UNCTAD/WTO, Mr. Vladimir Petrovsky, General Director of the United Nations Office in Geneva, Ambassador Nicolas Imboden, Swiss Delegate for Trade Agreements, Mr. Renato Ruggiero, General Director of WTO, Mr. Rubens Ricupero, Secretary General of UNCTAD, Ambassador William Rossier, Head of the Swiss Mission to WTO and AELE, Mr. Jérôme Koechlin, Head of Protocol, Canton of Geneva.
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.
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.
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
Dr Esperanza Durán, Director of AITIC, with a representative of Qatar, during de Fourth Session of the WTO Ministerial Conference, Doha, November 2001.
Mr Hans-Peter Egler, seco.
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".
On 11 November 2001, at a ceremony within the framework of the WTO Ministerial Conference in Doha, Pascal Couchepin, Swiss Minister of the Economy, recalled that other countries wanted to reinforce the Swiss initiative to found AITIC and were ready to finance it and participate in its governance. Clare Short, British Secretary of State for International Development, announced a contribution of CHF 2.5 million to assist the transformation of AITIC into an IGO.
By the end of the conference, 63 signatories, including 8 IGOs, had supported the Doha Initiative on Trade-Related Capacity Building and Greater Participation in the International Trading System and the creation of a Task Force. In so doing, they reaffirmed their commitment to an inclusive multilateral system and acknowledged AITIC's effectiveness and the growing demand for its services (for more details see Report on Meeting and Signing Ceremony)
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
Didier Chambovey, Minister of the Swiss Mission, and Ambassador Rénald Clérismé of Haiti co-chair the Task Force on AITIC's Development. The United Kingdom has put a consultant at the disposal of the Task Force to support its work.
Since it was established in Doha, the Task Force has met regularly according to the Work Plan. It has examined several reports to assist in considering the feasibility of turning AITIC into an IGO, including a comprehensive and detailed Development Plan. The Task Force is taking account of the agenda set in Doha, which places a high priority on capacity-building. Its discussion is concentrating on the AITIC Development Plan which envisages a gradual build-up of AITIC's activities, staff and budget over the period 2002-2005 to meet these demands. As far as activities are concerned, it recommends no major changes, but suggests clearer priorities, more specific allocation of staff responsibilities, and rationalisation of certain functions. The Agency's added-value and potential, and the advantages and disadvantages of becoming an IGO, including an examination of the procedures necessary to establish AITIC as an IGO and funding options have also been closely examined.
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.
Transforming AITIC into an intergovernmental organisation
Signing Ceremony of AITIC's Agreement, 9 December 2002, Centre William Rappard
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
Representatives of developed and developing countries signed an agreement to transform the status of AITIC to that of an intergovernmental organisation (AITIC's Agreement), and to provide it with broader funding. The signing took place at a ceremony to be held at WTO Headquarters in the Centre William Rappard in Geneva at 4:30 hs on 9 December, 2002. Seven developed countries are together providing initial funding of 18 million Swiss francs that will allow AITIC to meet sharply increased demands for its services.
The signing ceremony was co-chaired by Mr David Syz, Secretary of State for Economic Affairs of Switzerland, and HE Dr Rénald Clérismé, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Haiti to the WTO, and also co-chair of the Task Force on AITICs development.
Why Transform AITIC into an intergovernmental organisation?
The increasing difficulties of poor countries in participating in WTO negotiations, intensified by the Doha Work Programme, has boosted the demand for AITICs services. By broadening AITICs funding base and putting in place an inclusive governance structure, the AITIC Agreement acknowledges AITICs unique role and provides the basis for enabling it to respond more effectively to this demand.
AITICs future funding
AITICs 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 AITICs Agreement).