WTO NEWS: SPEECHES — DG PASCAL LAMY

Pascal Lamy's remarks at the opening session of the Aid for Trade conference in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

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Welcome to this first regional review of Aid for Trade for Africa. Putting together an event of this scope — and especially one so new — requires a great deal of effort from a great many people. I want to first thank our two partners in this event, the African Development Bank and the Economic Commission for Africa. President Kaberuka, Executive Secretary Janneh and their teams have literally worked day and night to make this event happen — coordinating between Tunis and Addis and Geneva — and it is a remarkable achievement that they have pulled it off, and with such impressive results.

I also want to thank the ITC for organizing the critical private sector dimension of this event — including the roundtable meeting yesterday — and the OECD for organizing the equally important session on monitoring, that will take place this afternoon, and which I urge you to attend. These two organizations have been valuable partners in all aspects of the WTO's Aid-for Trade-initiative, and we are grateful.

I also want to thank three countries — Denmark, Norway and the UK — whose generous contributions made this event possible. Not only have they been consistent supporters of this initiative, they have done so is a way that is efficient, coordinated, and with a minimum of red tape. These countries are models for how development assistance — not just Aid for Trade — should and can work.

Last but not least, I also want to thank our host, the Tanzanian Government, which has been a strong supporter of Aid for Trade. We sincerely appreciate your huge efforts to make all of us welcome and our meeting a productive one.

This event could not be more timely. When I look at Africa today, I see a continent poised to transform itself. Economic growth has exceeded five per cent for the past three years. Trade growth for many African countries has been even greater — over eight percent. All across the continent there are bold plans for regional and global integration. It is true that not all African counties or all Africans are sharing in this success; but it is equally true that leading lights are beginning to shine across the continent. I believe that in several years we might talk about dynamic African economies in the same breathless terms we now use for China and India. This will not happen because of the international representatives gathered in this room today. It will happen — is happening — because Africans are transforming themselves. They recognize a simple reality: that this continent has more to gain from harnessing globalization; and that it has more to lose from continued marginalization.

This is what our meeting next day and a half is all about. It has one purpose: helping countries in Africa build the capacity they need — and want — to expand trade and to integrate into the global economy. It is part of a broad 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 last of three regional conferences — following one Lima on 13-14 September and another in Manila on 19-20 — Dar es Salaam will provide the African perspective on Aid-for-Trade, culminating in a “Global Review” in Geneva on 21 — 22 November.

I believe this initiative is critical — both for the region and for the world trading system. Today's global economy 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 — 21st 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 Africa but many are not — and the necessary investments cannot be supplied by African 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. 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. In short, Aid for Trade is not a substitute for better trade rules. But it is an important complement to a fairer trading system. It is about helping developing countries to benefit from this system. It is also about strengthening the system itself — by ensuring that its opportunities are more widely shared.

These are major issues and we have only a short time to address them — so let me suggest three key issues:

First, national leadership, vision and commitment — backed by a comprehensive strategy for achieving results. No one can tell African countries how to trade or become more competitive. The only successful export-led growth strategy is one which you want yourselves — that you design and you implement — and that remains a consistent focus over the long-term. Trade — and trade capacity building — must be a national goal. There must be agreement — not easily reached — on the key policy priorities that will make trade growth happen. And these priorities must be shared across government — not just the trade ministry, but finance, planning, agriculture and others.

And because trade crosses borders, these priorities often need to be regional in scope — which means finding new ways to coordinate and agree on common objectives across borders. 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. Yesterday you had a chance to discuss one of the existing programmes providing Aid for Trade in the area of standards. This joint programme is an example of how targeted aid for developing countries to meet food standards can help them access world markets. I hope we will have a chance to discuss a broad range of programmes and projects — and the kind of resources, both development assistance and multilateral lending, needed to advance them. 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 central 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. And because private investment — both foreign and domestic — must be a major part of the answer to capacity and infrastructure building, we need to hear about 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 Dar es Salaam. 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 realize 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” answers. 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 African countries take advantage of trade opening and the trading system. Effectiveness is the benchmark against which our success — or failure — will be measured and I am ready to take on this challenge head on. But implicit in that challenge is the importance of changing mind-sets, not just building more roads and bridges. It is my hope that this conference will encourage us to focus on the profound economic changes around us, on how to adapt to — and exploit — these changes, and on how trade can become a more central part of Africa's economic vision.

Thank you.

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