Unctad, WTO Heads Meet with Itc Staff

By Hulm, Peter | International Trade Forum, January 1, 2004 | Go to article overview

Unctad, WTO Heads Meet with Itc Staff


Hulm, Peter, International Trade Forum


On separate occasions, the heads of UNCTAD and WTO met with ITC staff to celebrate ITCs 40th anniversary. They took the opportunity to speak of their appreciation for ITC's role, achievements and future plans.

MAKING GOOD IDEAS WORK

UNCTAD's secretary-General, Rubens Ricupero of Brazil, who retired on 14 September 2004, told ITC s staff: "I well remember how much I myself learned from you - your spirit of objectivity, [...] of trying to make good ideas work in practice." This was in line with Mr Ricupero's "personal search for giving concrete expression to concepts". International organizations specialize in analysis, but it is a different challenge "when we try to make that work in practice," he said. "This is one of the special strengths of ITC and you should be proud of that."

The Berimbau project in Brazil, he noted, is a "very good example of giving concrete expression to this link that we are trying to establish or reinforce - the link between trade and poverty reduction."

Mr Ricupero, who first came into contact with ITC's work in Brazil in the 1970s, emphasized: "I always had total support for the work you were doing. The organization now enjoys an enormous level of support and prestige among donor countries and in the community that deals with trade as a tool for development."

A MODEL FOR COOPERATION

"When people discuss whether UNCTAD and WTO can work together, they forget that ITC is itself an example of that. It is perhaps the best possible example. It deserves more attention," he went on. "I see our three organizations - WTO in negotiations, we in public policy, and you in working directly with the export promotion of countries, of enterprises, of sectors - as very much complementary. We in reality form a single undertaking. It is indivisible. It will only work well if we all fulfil our respective [roles]."

UNCTAD's IIth conference in Brazil, he noted, adopted a new technical cooperation strategy closely in line with ITC s own strategy. For the future, he pointed to creative industries as a sector where he saw more scope for combined work among international organizations, including ITC.

He confided: "As I grow older, I tend to take more interest in the practical work that you do than in trade negotiations." With the completion of the Uruguay Round and establishment of WTO, "the easiest part is done. In a moment when trade negotiations are more difficult, you can give more attention to what depends more on you than on others".

Mr Ricupero found a "perfect coincidence" between the work of ITC and UNCTAD. But ITC's work to increase the export capacity of developing countries - particularly through integrating small and medium-sized firms in foreign trade - is not well known and is "the dark side of the moon" in international commerce.

Responding, ITC Executive Director J. Denis Bélisle noted that Mr Ricupero had become a regular supporting speaker at ITC events. "You always bring sunshine to the people working on the dark side of the moon," he joked.

LINKING WITH THE BUSINESS WORLD

The WTO's Director-General since 2002, Dr Supachai Panitchpakdi of Thailand came to ITC after the July Ministerial meeting that charted the next steps in negotiations on the Doha Development Agenda. He started by underlining the joint aim of the three organizations: "To preserve the process of multilateralism which has been under so much pressure." At the same time, he noted that ITC holds a unique position in the trade triumvirate: "There are a few things that I would like to have done that we at the WTO cannot do ourselves - mainly to ensure that all these agreements work, and work in the everyday life of the businessman. …

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