I want to join President Moreno in welcoming you to this first regional review of Aid-for-Trade for Latin America and the Caribbean. I also want to extend sincere thanks to the Inter-American Development Bank — our partners in this event — who have done the heavy lifting in terms of preparation and organization. It has not been easy for Luis Alberto, Toni and the rest of the team to pull this together from thousands of miles away in Washington, and I commend their efforts and the results. Above all I want to thank our host, the Government of Peru. We realize this has been an immensely difficult time for your country — in the wake of the recent earthquake — which makes your commitment to holding this conference all the more impressive.
This meeting has one purpose: helping countries in Latin America and the Caribbean build the capacity they need to take advantage of trade. It is part of a global initiative — launched at the WTO's 2005 Hong Kong Ministerial Conference — to scale up international financial assistance for trade capacity building in developing countries. The first of three regional conferences — to be followed by one in Asia and then Africa — it will provide the regional perspective on Aid-for-Trade, culminating in a “Global Review” in Geneva on 21–22 November. More Aid for Trade is not part of the Doha Round of multilateral negotiations, which is about rebalancing WTO rules in a more development-friendly way and which must succeed if we are serious about making trade work for development. Aid for Trade is not a substitute for better trade rules. But it is an important complement to a fairer trading system.
I believe this initiative is critical — both for the region and for the world trading system. Today's global economy — which could be widened and strengthened by the conclusion of the Doha Round — is fundamentally changing the development dynamic, creating huge potential for developing countries to harness trade as an engine of growth. But to seize this opportunity, they also need access to the basic infrastructure that drives globalization — 21 st century transport corridors and telecommunications networks that can connect exporters to world markets; modern customs facilities that can move products rapidly and efficiently across borders; testing labs to ensure that exports meet international standards; financial “safety nets” to ease concerns about economic adjustment and shocks; and the sophisticated expertise and institutions needed to navigate a highly complex world trading system.
Some of these pieces are in place in this region but many others are not — and the necessary investments cannot be supplied by developing counties alone. Aid-for-Trade is about helping to fill these “gaps” — mobilizing and leveraging the required financial resources — and providing a catalyst for the increased trade, investment and growth. It is about helping developing countries to benefit from the world trading system. But it is also about strengthening the world trading system itself — by ensuring that its opportunities are more widely shared.
Yesterday you had a chance to discuss one of the existing programmes providing Aid for Trade in the area of standards. This joint programme between the WTO and the IADB is an example of how targeted aid for developing countries to meet food standards can help them access world markets.
These are major challenges and we only have a short time to address them — so let me suggest three key issues we need to focus on:
First, the importance of national leadership and vision — backed by a comprehensive strategy for getting there. No one can tell a country how to trade or become more competitive. The only successful export-led growth strategy is one which countries want themselves — and that they design and implement on their own. So the first step towards mobilizing Aid-for-Trade is to make trade capacity and infrastructure a national priority shared across government — including trade, finance, planning, agriculture, and other key ministries. And because trade crosses borders, these priorities are often regional in scope — which means finding new ways to finance and implement projects regionally. I hope we can spend time over the next day and a half hearing about your strategies — including your regional strategies — and how you plan to execute them.
Second, we need to focus on the financing that is required, how to mobilize it, and how to deliver it more efficiently and effectively. This region has had experience — both good and bad — in attempting to raise financial assistance for trade-related projects. We need to look at what has worked, what hasn't, and why. A big part of the challenge is to get donors and international agencies to focus more on trade and growth in their own development planning — and to make the case that in today's open and integrated global economy there can be no long-term poverty reduction or other social goals without increased trade and economic growth. We are not going to close the financing gap over the next day and half. But we are going to lay out the immediate and long-term steps for doing so.
Third, we need to focus on the role of the private sector — for the simple reason that it is farmers, businesses and companies that trade, not governments. I am encouraged that we have so many private sector representatives with us. We want to hear from you about the obstacles you face and the priority steps that need to be taken. We also want hear how the private sector's views and ideas can be incorporated more directly into national trade planning and strategies. And because private investment — both foreign and domestic — must be a major part of the answer to capacity and infrastructure building, we need to focus on the incentives that are required to leverage private resources.
What we are undertaking is ambitious. I think ambition is good — it is how we will get results. But just as improvements in trade capacity and infrastructure will not happen overnight, we cannot expect — nor should we try to find — all the answers in Lima. We need to remind ourselves that this is a work in progress — and that we are at the beginning of what will be a long road. The important thing is to get the process launched — which we are doing.
We also need to remind ourselves that there is no one magic solution to the challenges I've outlined, but many solutions — and that the answer is not to create a new mechanism, but to get the many existing mechanisms to work together more effectively. Success will depend fundamentally on “coherence” — cooperation with all of you in this room, with your colleagues in capitals, and with practitioners on the ground. This meeting is not about imposing “top down” solutions. It is about raising awareness, sharing information, and creating incentives — by shining a “spotlight” on the issue — to get all of us working together to find and deliver solutions.
I started by saying that our goal is more and better Aid-for-Trade — all aimed at helping developing countries to take advantage of trade opening and the trading system. That is the benchmark against which our success — or failure — will be measured. But implicit in that challenge is the importance of changing mind-sets, not just building more roads and bridges. It is about focusing on the profound global economic changes around us, on what this region needs to do to adapt to — and exploit — these changes, and on the vision that is required to get us there. That is a tall order — but also an exciting one. Let's get started.