Over the last three years, ITC increased its delivery of technical assistance to developing and transition economies by over 20% each year for a total of 70% over three years. The launch of the Doha Development Round significantly increased requests for ITC assistance, as more developing countries engage in the global trading system and their businesses seek to understand and apply its rules.
Representatives generally welcomed ITC's target to increase delivery by 20% again in 2004 and to maintain double-digit growth afterwards, as projected in its 2004-2006 Business Plan.
Countries requested the expansion of trade development programmes in areas where developing country exports are growing rapidly, such as South-South trade, services exporting and creative industries. They also expressed interest in ITC's electronic market analysis tools, e-trade initiatives, export-led poverty reduction and initiatives to mainstream women in trade development.
Over 50 delegations spoke unanimously in support of ITC's work, which the meeting's Chairman, Ambassador Henrik Ree Iversen from Denmark, summarized as "recognized by all for its quality and transparency".
The ambitious growth rate should not come at the expense of the quality of ITC's field-level assistance, noted some. In response, J. Denis Belisle, ITC's Executive Director, said that quality-oriented growth is feasible, as ITC focuses sharply on three objectives: to grow within its own specialized niche; to combine its expertise with others in technical assistance "consortiums"; and to continue to innovate and streamline administrative processes.
"Pushing ourselves to the limit is important, because of the magnitude of demand for ITC assistance from developing countries, who want help to participate fully in the world economy," he added.
40 years of aid to trade
"ITC is unique," said Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General, in a message to the Joint Advisory Group (JAG), delivered by Sergei Ordzhonikidze, Director-General of the UN Office at Geneva, on the occasion of ITC's 40th anniversary and its annual meeting. "Its contributions in putting trade to work for development are widely recognized within the UN system, within the donor community and, most importantly, within developing countries themselves ... It has managed to balance the commercially inspired demands of its clients in the business sector with the wider imperatives of sustainable development and poverty reduction."
WTO's Deputy Director-General, Kipkorir Aly Azad Rana, congratulated ITC on "four decades of hard work, commitment and achievement on behalf of developing countries and economies in transition ... WTO shares ITC's philosophy that trade can be a powerful engine for growth and development in poorer parts of the world," be said. "No other area of international cooperation offers developing countries the gains that ambitious trade liberalization can generate."
Ablasse Ouedraogo, Senior Adviser to the President of the African Development Bank Group, called for stronger ties with ITC. Africa received US$ 2.5 billion to improve capacity for trade in 2003, 18% more than the previous year. Development banks are starting to pay attention to trade as a means to reduce poverty, but there is more they can do. "Recent visits of Dr. Rana and Mr. Belisle to the African Development Bank ... indicate clearly that the [African Development] Bank Group, ITC, WTO and UNCTAD will work together to harmonize their policies and procedures on trade development," he said.
"In spite of deep transformation in the ... international trading system in the last four decades, there is no doubt about the validity and relevance of the original ITC goals," said Rubens Ricupero, Secretary-General of UNCTAD, in a message to the JAG.
A sustainable impact
"We are working more with national counterparts to build national capacity, rather than with international experts. …