By Francis, Patricia R.
International Trade Forum , No. 2
A change is under way. Business, government and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have realized that they must join forces if they are to tackle one of the big-challenges of this century: ending poverty. Central to this challenge is creating wealth through trade.
Developing countries understand that to help their businesses grow, they must move beyond connecting producers with buyers, beyond supplying coffee beans to the agro industry or handicrafts to tourists. They need to add value to their exports, look for new market opportunities and define the marketing and branding strategies that will help them create new, profitable business that produce sustainable jobs.
Transforming potential into export capability
What is ITC doing to bring trade into development plans? How can we help developing countries to reduce poverty by taking advantage of the many opportunities associated with global trade? How do we release the vast potential of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in developing countries?
ITC works with countries to build trade support capacities which transform potential into real export capability. We help them to gain access to an information infrastructure so that their firms understand market opportunities and can make educated business decisions.
But ITC alone cannot bring about change. To begin to tackle poverty, we work with partners, including local government authorities, NGOs, communities, financial institutions, international organizations and the corporate world. We also need to ensure that our projects are tailored to local situations--a one-size-fits-all approach will not succeed.
By working with our partners to reduce poverty, we can help the private sector in our member states to create better jobs with sustainable incomes. Our demonstration projects illustrate the possible and should be a catalyst to other small businesses in developing countries.
ITC can point to some striking examples of poor communities that have managed to trade their way out of poverty. In Brazil's most popular tourist resort, for example, a project run by ITC and its partners has introduced a process through which thousands of people in eight very poor communities now sell agricultural products, produced under conditions that meet international health and safety standards, to the resorts. They provide cleaning and garden services; produce world-class craft items; and provide entertainment based on local culture. The project is an innovative partnership between big business, governments, NGOs and international organizations and illustrates how foreign direct investment can be a catalyst to transform marginalized communities.
Our work at the International Trade Centre points towards three imperatives that can help reduce poverty through trade.
1. Bring trade into development plans
* Concentrate on the most vulnerable. We have committed more resources to the least developed countries, small island developing states and post-conflict nations, to define with them their trade priorities in order to create export development programmes designed to help them grow small business and reduce poverty.
* Include trade as part of UN country strategies. Today, only 10% of UN Development Assistance Frameworks mention trade. I f the designers of these country development strategies have no interest in trade, it will not be mainstreamed into the development agenda. We have to ensure that the voices of those actually involved in trade are heard and that ITC and our trade partners are present when these frameworks are being put together.
* Support "Aid for Trade". …