Magazine article International Trade Forum

Meeting the Competitiveness Challenge

Magazine article International Trade Forum

Meeting the Competitiveness Challenge

Article excerpt

The global trading system is redefining business. Being competitive in today's interconnected economy means working within the rules of the trading system, as well as responding to more demanding markets. To meet the challenge, small firms in developing countries need efficient, innovative business practices and a proactive trade support infrastructure.

On balance, trade liberalization has improved the economic situation for most countries, despite some setbacks. Completing the current round of WTO negotiations would provide further gains, especially to developing countries, but many don't see a significant interest in the talks. Arguably, the limited number of globally competitive goods and services they can offer means global access talks are largely irrelevant. But this view is shortsighted, as more business people in developing countries, and those who support them, are recognizing.

To avoid being marginalized, developing countries need to participate more effectively in the ongoing trade negotiations and, at the same time, work to be more competitive at exports.

Rubens Ricupero, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), addressed ITC staff in October 2003 about its contribution to the UNCTAD XI conference to be held in Sao Paolo, Brazil in June 2004. Analysing the stalemate in trade negotiations at Cancun, he said: "Only countries with a supply capacity have an interest in participating in multilateral trade talks. What can those who are unprepared to export have to say? Countries need to be able to put forth products for negotiation for which they have or could have a comparative advantage.

"The current round of WTO negotiations are an opportunity to sensitize policy-makers to building export capacity to compete in the world economy," he continued.

In the area of trade and development, Mr. Ricupero outlined three cross-cutting issues that countries can target to make a difference in their economic and social situation: trade and poverty; trade and gender; and trade and the creative industries. UNCTAD XI will address these issues. Responding to Mr. Ricupero's call, ITC supports these priorities at UNCTAD XI and beyond.

ITC's contribution to UNCTAD XI

ITC is participating in and leading events that explore how countries, trade support institutions and firms can build business competitiveness.

UNCTAB's Rio Trade Week--Rio de Janeiro

* Round Table on Export Competitiveness--7 June. ITC will contribute to this pre-conference event, at which participants will share experiences and, where possible, recommend issues for developing countries to consider in their efforts to expand and diversify exports.

ITC-led events

* Business for Development--8-9 June. The initiative brings together business leaders and government negotiators to shape effective national negotiating positions. This meeting is primarily for Latin American and Caribbean countries; ITC is organizing meetings for other regions throughout 2004.

* LatinPharma 2004--9-12 June. LatinPharma helps create business opportunities for small and medium-sized Latin American firms in the pharmaceutical and related sectors. Organized with partners in Brazil, the event includes a business matchmaking forum; information sessions with industry experts; and a preparatory e-conference. For details, see the web site (http://www.latinpharma.net/ expo2004).

UNCTAO XI--Sao Paolo

* High-level Panel on Creative Industries and Development--13 June. …

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