Magazine article International Trade Forum

Business Advocacy in Practice: Case from an LDC

Magazine article International Trade Forum

Business Advocacy in Practice: Case from an LDC

Article excerpt

Business advocacy on trade - supported by a broadly-based network of business sectors -- can raise the level of ambition and achievement in the world trading system.

It's April 2002. In a large conference room in the capital city, about 20 business leaders, academics and industry association executives are meeting with senior officials from the Commerce Ministry. The Director General of Commerce, seated at the centre of the table, has just finished delivering a short talk on the Doha Ministerial meeting of WTO that has surprised the business people.

In response to a question, he admits that he does not know the background to some of the decisions in the Doha Declaration. He explains that the official delegation at Doha had not been able to attend all of the negotiating meetings because it did not have the resources to attend more than one or two simultaneous meetings. That had frequently meant missing four or five other meetings, sometimes on important topics. "It's very regrettable," he acknowledges quietly.

Some of the business people shake their heads. This is very worrying, they say. There are big market issues at stake in the WTO trade negotiations. They mention the textile quotas, antidumping action on steel, the pressure to license foreign insurance companies. Can't the officials organize these things better?

"Well, perhaps they can," the Director General agrees. He pauses a moment to emphasize the next point. "But just having more people at the meetings, even if we could afford it, would not necessarily solve the problem." He looks around the room and picks out the President of the Chamber of Industry. "We are constantly trying to find the resources to train more people. But even if, by some miracle, we had the additional people to attend all the meetings we would still not have been as well prepared as I would like." His gaze shifts across the room to the Chair of the National Council of Manufacturers and then to the Director of the Textile Industries' Association.

"For weeks before the Ministerial meeting we were asking for your help and advice. We heard almost nothing. A few days before I left, my office received three pages or so of notes from the Chamber of Industry and a letter from the National Council of Manufacturers which - as I'm sure you're aware - contained contrary recommendations. Although I was on the phone to some of you, there was hardly time to work out a national position as we left for the meeting. Fortunately, the Textile Industries' Association was represented on the official delegation, or I am afraid we might have had no input at all from them."

Some of the business leaders shift uncomfortably in their chairs. "It's all very well to criticize the Ministry, but you must play your part too," the Director General said.

Challenges to participating in

WTO negotiations

This is not an imaginary scene... and it could have taken place in many capitals earlier this year.

Many countries find it a major challenge to manage participation in the WTO negotiations. The resource requirements are large, governments have to assess many different policy options and consult with different parts of the business community, government and civil society.

Most governments rely, to an increasing extent, on the business community to contribute to a national effort to maximize trade opportunities including through participation in the WTO negotiations. …

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