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Reports on Meetings

April 2002

Meeting on the Presentation of the Report of the Task Force on AITIC's Development and Adoption of the Report's Conclusions by Ministers

Monterrey, 21 March 2002

1. At the United Nations International Conference on Financing for Development, held from 18 - 22 March 2002 in Monterrey, Mexico, representatives from less-advantaged countries and industrial countries met to attend the side event co-organised by AITIC, the Swiss Mission to the WTO in Geneva, the Swiss Secretariat for the Economy (seco) and the federal Department of Foreign Affairs in Bern. The aim of this side event was to present the Report of the Task Force on AITIC's Development. At this meeting, the recommendations of the Task Force Report were adopted.

2. The meeting was co-chaired by the Swiss Minister of Foreign Affairs, H E Mr Joseph Deiss - who had convened the meeting - and by Haiti's Minister of the Economy and Finance, H E Mr Faubert Gustave. Mr Deiss's opening remarks (Annex 1) summarised Switzerland's motives for supporting the resource-constrained members and observers in the WTO and thus its initiative to create AITIC. He described the usefulness of AITIC's services and remarked that the present structure was insufficient in human and financial terms to cope with the growing demand. Consequently, there was a need for bringing in new partners, both to increase the sense of ownership as well as to provide AITIC with additional resources and a more stable institutional set up.

3. Mr Gustave's observations (Annex 2) thanked Switzerland for having had the initiative to create AITIC and emphasised the importance of the services AITIC had been providing since 1998. He noted the obstacles faced by the less-advantaged countries, in particular the least-developed, in having an effective participation in the multilateral trading system. Remarking on the potential of trade as an instrument of development and the need to increase the negotiating capacity of the least-developed countries he stated his country particularly valued the AITIC initiative.

4. After Mr Gustave's remarks Mr Deiss proposed to adopt the report of the Task Force and opened the floor for delegations.

5. The Australian Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Hon Chris Gallus, MP, thanked Messrs Deiss and Gustave as well as the Task Force for its work. She stated that Australia was committed to the increased participation of developing countries in the work of the WTO and in particular in the new negotiations. In relation to this Australia fully supported the work of AITIC, especially that of the Non-Residents' Unit. She also mentioned that at the recently-held meeting of Heads of State of the Commonwealth, Australia had announced a contribution of $A 500,000 for AITIC. Australia looked forward to taking part in the deliberations to transform AITIC into an IGO.

6. Sweden's Minister for Development Cooperation, H E Jan O. Karlsson, thanked the co-chairs for having organised the side event and for having adopted the recommendations of the Task Force which will allow the transformation of AITIC into an IGO at the most appropriate moment. He mentioned that the Monterrey Conference had so far been successful. But whereas up to then the discussion had been on volumes, it now had turned to quality. Sweden was of the opinion that AITIC was a much-needed organisation and that it had proved its value. Sweden recognised AITIC's ability to strengthen resource-constrained countries' participation in the multilateral trading system. Sweden's commitment to this was illustrated by its increased contributions to the WTO and other trade-related organisations.

7. The Netherlands representative congratulated the Task Force for its hard work, especially the co-chairs of the Task Force. The Netherlands fully supported the terms of reference and hoped to become a member of the proposed organisation. The Netherlands was conscious of the difficulties of resource-constrained countries' participation in the multilateral trading system and recognised the unique role of AITIC to assisting them in defining and defending their interests. Conscious of the difficulties prior to the transformation into an inter-governmental organisation, the Netherlands was willing to assist AITIC during the transition period.

8. The representative of Canada Mr Bill Singleton, stated that his country was strongly supportive of AITIC's Initiative and that the work of the agency had been very consistent with the work of Canada regarding technical assistance and trade-related capacity-building for developing countries. He was very pleased to announce Canada's contribution of Can$ 500,000 via the Agence intergouvernementale de la Francophonie to support AITIC's further development.

9. Michael Sarris, representative of the World Bank Group, explained that the Group was developing its economic department and that it was interested in analytical work and capacity-building in the area of trade. The World Bank Group was already working in strong association with countries like Sweden or the Netherlands and would be very pleased to continue this dialogue and would also like to know how the World Bank Group could help in this initiative.

10. The representative of the UK, Mr Michael Mosselmans, thanked AITIC for its work and welcomed proposals to strengthen AITIC. According to the representative of the UK this would help to rationalise and formalise AITIC's governance and structure. He then added that the UK would like to bring its financial support to AITIC and reiterated the pledge of £ 1 million made prior to Doha.

11. The representative of Côte d'Ivoire Paul Koffi Koffi, thanked participants for their support of the work of AITIC. He then stressed that his country hoped it would continue to benefit in the future from AITIC's services as well as the assistance it offers to developing countries like Côte d'Ivoire, with a permanent representation in Geneva but which is not in the category of LDCs, to be more efficient in its relationship with the WTO. This would help developing countries to build a larger community.

12. Mr Deiss gave the floor to Mr Ablassé Ouedraogo, Deputy Director-General of the WTO, who congratulated the co-chairs on their work. He highlighted the importance Mr Mike Moore attached to the presence of the WTO in this important side event in order to express the Organisation's support of the AITIC Initiative. He added that the WTO Secretariat had very much appreciated its collaboration with AITIC and that its transformation into an IGO would provide it with a more stable basis, especially regarding the assistance the agency offers to WTO members without permanent representation in Geneva. He again stressed that the WTO Secretariat would fully support AITIC in its future work.

13. The Minister of Economy of El Salvador, H E Mr Miguel Lacayo, took the floor and stressed the usefulness of the services provided by AITIC to countries which do not have the necessary human and material resources to fully participate in the multilateral trading system and, therefore, could not take advantage of WTO rules. In the same line, the representative of Honduras supported the statement of the Minister of El Salvador underscoring the need for human and financial resources in her country to strengthen its negotiating capacity and better defend its interests in the multilateral trading system. She then thanked AITIC for its efforts.

14. Finally, Mr J. Denis Bélisle, Executive Director of ITC, said that it was a pleasure to be present at this side event as he remembered four years ago his participation in the launching of AITIC in Geneva. The establishment of AITIC had required an enormous amount of work and the Agency had now proved to be unique. He was delighted to see the international community encouraging the work of AITIC and its willingness to transform it into an IGO. He also looked forward to offering ITC's support to this initiative and to working in partnership with AITIC.

15. Minister Deiss concluded the meeting by thanking the participants, especially those who had announced a contribution to AITIC's development, and hoped that the goal announced of having an Agreement by the end of June would be reached so that the full transformation of AITIC into an IGO would be possible before the end of the year.

16. The side event was well attended by representatives of the following countries: Angola; Australia, Canada, Cape Verde, Côte d'Ivoire, Denmark, El Salvador, European Commission, Finland, Georgia, Haiti, Honduras, Japan, Jordan, Lesotho, Mali, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Slovak Republic, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Tonga, United Kingdom, Yugoslavia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Attendance from international organisations included: the ACP Group, Commonwealth Secretariat, International Trade Centre, World Bank and the World Trade Organization.

Annex 1

Opening Remarks by Mr. Joseph Deiss, Minister for
Foreign Affairs of Switzerland
at a Meeting of Ministers of WTO Members
and Observers to Review Progress with the AITIC Initiative
Monterrey, Mexico, 21 March 2002


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you all for responding to my invitation, and welcome to this meeting.

Its purpose is to give further impetus to the AITIC Initiative signed in Doha, during the World Trade Organization's Fourth Ministerial Conference, in November 2001.

Although the AITIC Initiative was launched at Doha, it is also highly relevant to our concern here in Monterrey with financing for development.

As you may know, in the AITIC Initiative, Ministers recognised the urgent need to support the resource-constrained members and observers of the WTO.

The top priority was to focus on the least-developed countries and those without representation in Geneva. The aim: to strengthen their capacity and enable them to participate effectively in the multilateral trading system.

Small, vulnerable economies and economies in transition are also key beneficiaries of AITIC's services.

We are all keenly aware that the majority of WTO members lack the human and material resources to participate effectively in the trading system.

Those that are represented in Geneva have only very small missions, and 34 of them have no mission at all there.

To help these resource-constrained or 'less-advantaged' countries defend their trade interests, the Swiss government created in 1998 the Agency for International Trade Information and Cooperation - AITIC for short.

AITIC is unique. It provides a variety of free services, tailored to the individual needs of these countries.

For those absent from Geneva, AITIC created in October 2000 a Non-Residents' Unit.

The Unit helps them identify the priorities:

> It gives them early warning of issues and meetings coming up in Geneva.
> It analyses unfamiliar topics for them.
> It issues briefing notes on issues of their concern.

In short, it brings non-residents closer to Geneva.

AITIC has been highly successful.

Demand for its services has grown so rapidly, that the Agency's human and financial resources have become insufficient. And this at a most crucial juncture:

Indeed, it is now, that the WTO has adopted an ambitious Work Programme that AITIC's provision of services has become more urgent than ever.

The new multilateral negotiations and other activities covering trade issues are of the highest importance to the countries that AITIC serves.

In response to this situation, our governments launched the AITIC Initiative.

We set up a Task Force to consider the feasibility of transforming AITIC into an Intergovernmental Organisation and to improve its financial and functional basis.

And we asked the Task Force for a progress report that we could consider here at Monterrey.

We now have that report, and it is highly encouraging.

Its key conclusions are clear. The Task Force is convinced that:

> AITIC is providing valuable services to the resource-constrained countries;
> that its resources should be reinforced to meet their growing needs;
> that its establishment on a broader and more secure footing as an intergovernmental organisation - an 'IGO', in the jargon - is desirable and would give beneficiary countries full partnership in AITIC's work.

The Task Force recommends that the next step forward is to draw up an Intergovernmental Agreement.

The goal is to establish AITIC as an IGO.

The process involves making proposals to us on how the organisation and its activities should be financed.

It states that such an Agreement is made available as early as the end of June. That will, I hope, allow a signing conference to be convened well before the end of the year.

If we can accept this recommendation today - and I trust that we can - we shall have taken a concrete and decisive step towards achieving our AITIC Initiative.

We will have added another building bloc to the participatory and all-inclusive system we all aspire to construct.

Annex 2

Opening Remarks of Mr Faubert Gustave Minister of the
Economy and Finance, Haiti
On the Occasion of the Meeting of
Ministers of the Members and Observers of the WTO to Take Stock
of the Progress Made in relation to the AITIC Initiative
Monterrey, Mexico, 21 March 2002

Your Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me also thank you for attending this working session, which should give rise to concrete decisions regarding a better support structure for our countries. In addition, I would like to thank the Swiss government for this initiative. Its launching illustrated that the Swiss authorities had identified and addressed in a practical and direct way one of the major constraints to our positive participation in the globalisation process. There is, of course, no need to insist on the importance of the services offered by AITIC since its establishment in 1998. AITIC is now attracting such a high level of demand that we are gathered here today to discuss ways of strengthening its capacities, in such a way as to increase our participation in the international trading system.

I think the Task Force has provided us with quite an extensive report in response to the mandate it was given. The important point that must be kept in mind is that our countries face constraints on both the financial and technical levels. The resources available to us do not allow us to establish appropriate representation in Geneva, capable of permitting an adequate participation in discussions and negotiations at the WTO. Lacking adequate resources, we remain poorly informed on the implications of the various decisions made in relation to international trade, which will set the course for our future integration into the world economy. It is therefore crucial that information circulate in our countries and that our participation be active and effective.

It is only if we have ownership of decisions made at the global level that trade can genuinely become a means of promoting the development of our countries, the LDCs. To that end, we need to increase our negotiating capacity. To defend our interests, we must first be able to identify them.

This initiative holds particular importance for my country. We are beset by difficulties on many different levels, made worse by our international partners' poor understanding of the idea of 'partnership', that leaves us in many respects on our own.

The Task Force's Report brings out the advantages and disadvantages of turning AITIC into an IGO. One of the most notable is the possibility of having a larger funding base, made up of contributions not only from the 49 actual or potential users of AITIC's services, but also from our friends in other countries (such as Switzerland) and international institutions interested in this initiative. So today, we must come to an agreement on the modalities for setting up this new structure and reach a decision on the draft resolutions that have been forwarded to us.


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