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6 July 2000
Heads of international agencies agree to new approach on trade-related technical assistance for least-developed countries

Heads and representatives of the six core international agencies (ITC, IMF, UNCTAD, UNDP, World Bank and WTO)(1) of the Integrated Framework for trade-related technical assistance to Least-Developed Countries (IF) met in New York on 6 July to discuss better ways of delivering trade-related technical assistance to the world's poorest countries — the 48 UN-designated least-developed countries (LDCs). Their deliberations were based on a recent independent review of the IF, commissioned to examine ways of improving this three-year old cooperative inter-agency effort to help the poorest countries integrate more effectively into the global economy.

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WTO Director-General Mike Moore, who chaired the meeting, said: “We all know the IF has not been working as well as it should and we are putting in place new arrangements to rectify the situation. We have a responsibility, shared with governments and other agencies and institutions, to do better in assisting the LDCs to integrate into the world economy. Of course, it is the LDC governments themselves that must determine their policies and priorities, but we must be ready to give them effective help. It is time these countries saw more of the positive side of globalization.”

The new arrangements lay considerable stress on ensuring that trade policy, trade-related technical assistance, and capacity-building needs are articulated in a broad development context. The heads of agency firmly shared the view held by most governments and the development community at large, that these aspects of policy simply cannot be addressed in isolation. This emphasis on “mainstreaming” trade means that the case for trade-related technical assistance and associated programs and projects must be made through a country-led process of defining national poverty reduction strategies.

The need for trade-related assistance will be assessed alongside a country's other priorities, and supported accordingly by the government concerned and the donor community. These arrangements will not only ensure that trade takes its rightful place in policy terms, but it will also increase the chances that the necessary resources will be made available to foster the necessary skills, institutions and infrastructure for the effective integration of LDCs into the world economy.

A second feature of the new arrangements is the proposed establishment of a steering committee to oversee the functioning of the IF on a continuing basis. The earlier arrangement where the heads of the six core agencies played an oversight role will be broadened out so as to include LDCs and donors. This will ensure greater transparency, more accountability and ownership, and will allow any problems in the functioning of the IF to be dealt with promptly as they arise.

A third element is the decision to agree to seek donor support for and voluntary contributions to an Integrated Framework Trust Fund (IFTF). The trust fund, which would involve some $20 million over three years, would be primarily dedicated to helping LDCs to develop the necessary analytical and policy framework for mainstreaming trade into national development strategies, and for developing programs and projects. It would also be used for various other activities relating to training and capacity-building. The heads of agency consider that without dedicated resources, it will be hard to see how the IF will function as it should.

The core agencies also agreed on the importance of ensuring that each agency should focus on what it does best, within the context of its respective mandate. The heads of agency have agreed that the World Bank will lead and coordinate the mainstreaming process, with the participation of other agencies. UNDP will manage the proposed trust fund. The WTO will act in a coordinating and secretariat role with respect to the working level Inter-Agency Working Group for the IF, and each of the agencies will focus on their respective areas of expertise in the delivery of trade-related technical assistance. The ITC, for example, will focus on support for trade services in LDCs, including enterprise development. UNCTAD's work will involve capacity building and training of various kinds, including for participation in trade negotiations.

The origins of the Integrated Framework are rooted in the Plan of Action for Least-Developed Countries, adopted as part of the WTO Ministerial Declaration in Singapore. The Framework itself was “endorsed” in October 1997, at a WTO High Level Meeting (HLM) for LDCs, where it was decided that six agencies — ITC, IMF, UNCTAD, UNDP, World Bank and WTO — would take joint responsibility for the implementation of the framework for delivering trade-related technical assistance to the Least-Developed Countries.

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Footnote:

1 Mr. J. Denis Bélisle, Executive Director of International Trade Centre, Mr. Reinhard Munzberg, Director and Special Representative to the United Nations of the International Monetary Fund, Mr. Rubens Ricupero, Secretary-General of United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, Mr. Mark Malloch-Brown, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, Mr. Kemal Dervis, Vice-President for Poverty Reduction and Economic Management, World Bank, and Mr. Mike Moore, Director-General of the World Trade Organization  Back to text