WTO news: what’s been happening in the WTO

27 February 2002

WTO/IADB to cooperate on trade-related technical assistance programs for Latin American and Caribbean countries

World Trade Organization Director-General Mike Moore and Inter-American Development Bank President Enrique V. Iglesias today (27 February 2002) signed a memorandum of understanding, under which their institutions will seek to deepen cooperation to provide technical assistance on trade negotiations and capacity-building to countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The document was signed at the IADB’s headquarters in Washington DC, following a meeting of Latin American and Caribbean trade and finance officials on the challenges their region faces in multilateral negotiations and commitments under WTO agreements, and in negotiating and implementing the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA).

In order to help member countries meet their multilateral trade challenges, the WTO and the IADB will step up their joint efforts to assist them to strengthen their capacity to fully participate in the multilateral trading system.

The importance of capacity-building was highlighted in the recent Doha Ministerial Declaration, in which WTO members sought to place the priorities and interests of developing countries and least developed countries at the heart of the WTO’s work program.

The WTO believes that the memorandum could serve as a model for regional development banks to support their borrowing member countries through technical assistance and capacity-building programs that will allow them to play a larger role in the Doha Development Agenda.

Under the memorandum, the WTO and the IADB will work to establish joint programs to support, among other activities, regional and subregional workshops and meetings, training courses, and tool kits for trade negotiators, distance learning courses and analysis of trade policy and multilateral negotiations issues.

The WTO and the IADB will also consider cooperating on technical assistance programs to strengthen Latin American and Caribbean countries’ capacity in trade-related areas pertaining to the environment, competition, government procurement, investments and trade facilitation.

In recent years the IADB has collaborated with the WTO through the bank’s Buenos Aires-based Institute for Integration of Latin America and the Caribbean, which has financed WTO training courses for trade negotiators from IADB borrowing member countries.

“It is clear that Latin American and Caribbean countries need to build capacity and rationalize their resources if they are to get the most out of the negotiations — both for the FTAA and WTO — for which deadlines are the same,” Mr Moore told the meeting. “One key to a successful trade round will be technical assistance and capacity-building — helping developing countries and least developed countries to integrate into the multilateral trading system and participate fully in the negotiations”.

Mr Moore emphasized the need to coordinate with all the specialist institutions that are active in the trade area. And he stressed the WTO Secretariat’s strategic role in promoting cooperation, joint technical assistance and capacity-building, noting that the organization saw itself as a “clearing-house” or repository of information for WTO-related technical assistance.

Noting that he had been pursuing coherence issues since taking office in 1999, Mr Moore said the memorandum closely reflected the two organisations’ joint priorities in capacity-building following the Doha Development Agenda. “This is a model that can and should be replicated in other regions,” he said, describing it as “an important step forward”.