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3 May 2002

Doha Development Agenda: the role of Regional Development Banks

These are speaking notes used by the Director-General during his meeting this morning (Friday 3 May) with Heads and Representatives of Regional Development Banks. These speaking notes are circulated for information.

Briefing/Speaking Notes for the Director-General

Background/purpose to the meeting

Welcome to Geneva. Thank you for agreeing to participate in this meeting. I thought that we should meet for four specific purposes, namely, to:

(a) review with you the unprecedented mandate and common challenge that face the WTO, Regional Development Banks, and other economic, development, and financial institutions, arising from Doha;

(b) explore and identify with you the concrete roles that Regional Development Banks could play in the implementation of the Doha Development Agenda;

(c) share with you and seek your support for a proposal to expand our WTO Trade Policy Courses in association with developing country universities. Your support for this proposal with scholarship funding can make a big difference to making this happen.

(d) propose that we consider establishing an annual dialogue amongst our various Secretariats and ensure periodic consultations between the WTO and Regional Development Banks for the implementation of the Doha Development Agenda. I believe that this is long overdue. Furthermore, our Members consider that the WTO should establish a predictable and firm relationship with regional development banks to assist Members on various concrete areas.

But lets start by reminding ourselves from a WTO perspective what technical cooperation is not. We need to be absolutely clear about the limits of what the WTO can do and cannot do with regard to the Doha Development Agenda. It is not for us to tell countries and companies to make T-shirts or shoes, build airports or seaports. It is true over 10 per cent of our budget goes to the International Trade Centre which exists to help businesses navigate through agreements and rules to get products to markets, and they do an excellent job. That's their core business. Other organizations can help with physical infrastructure; that's their core business. We can and do cooperate with other agencies. But we must stick to our core business which is trade liberalisation, the Doha Development Agenda and bringing down barriers to trade so that people everywhere can benefit.

Scope of the Doha mandates

The Doha Ministerial Conference established an unprecedented mandate for the international community on trade and development. The Doha Ministerial Declaration was not simply an isolated Declaration by Trade Ministers. At Doha, the entire international community was focused. It set a far-reaching agenda for new trade negotiations. New specific commitments were undertaken on trade and development. This agenda clearly also encompassed all multilateral and regional economic, development, and financial institutions.

The scope of the Doha Development Agenda is extensive and far-reaching. Negotiations were initiated in several areas including agriculture, services, market access for non-agricultural products, TRIPS, Rules, the Dispute Settlement Understanding, clarifying and improving anti-dumping procedures and Trade and the Environment. There are also outstanding implementation issues in existing Agreements that still require negotiations.

At the same time, preparatory work is underway on new issues, including trade and investment, trade and competition, transparency in government procurement and trade facilitation. All these issues are critical areas of reform for any economy, whether developing or developed. Trade liberalisation in these areas offer opportunities for better allocation of resources and thus for economic growth.

Important, as well, is the keen desire of developing and least-developed countries to be assisted to undertake necessary domestic policy reforms and stimulate appropriate supply-side responses that will enable them to draw on the benefits of the open, rules-based trading system.

I believe that the WTO and Regional Development Banks could and should work together in coordination to assist Members and Observers in several areas, including:

  • areas of negotiations;
  • areas where preparatory work is underway;
  • areas of domestic policy reforms;
  • supply-side responses; and
  • support for the expansion of WTO Trade Policy Courses in association with developing country universities with scholarship funding.
These areas provide scope for the coordinated intervention of Regional Development Banks, the World Bank, and the WTO. Technical cooperation and capacity building constitute a core element of the Doha Development Agenda. They are essential for developing countries to participate meaningfully in the trading system and in the negotiations. Joint and coordinated delivery of technical cooperation and capacity building needs to form a key component of our work and our partnership.


Well defined partnerships with other institutions are key to implementation of the Doha Development Agenda.

I would like to inform you that since Doha, I have met with the Heads of the six agencies responsible for the Integrated Framework — the IMF, ITC, UNCTAD, UNDP, the World Bank, at a meeting hosted by Mr. Jim Wolfensohn, on 26 February. We agreed to make use of the good practices of coordination and coherence that we are establishing in the context of the IF, in responding to the Doha challenges. I hope Geneva-based agencies can meet to audit progress later in the month.

Furthermore, the WTO and the IF agencies convened a meeting with bilateral donors within the framework of the Development Assistance Committee at the OECD, to improve coordination between the trade and development communities and, between agency and country providers of technical assistance.

The role of regional development banks

May I offer some personal remarks on the role I see for Regional Development Banks. The scope for the participation and contributions by Regional Development Banks in the implementation of the Doha Development Agenda go far beyond joint delivery of technical cooperation with the WTO. Your work needs to ensure the complementarity and coherence of regional integration processes with the multilateral trading system.

Regional Development Banks, together with the Bretton Woods institutions, have actively supported the process of structural reforms in developing countries. Key elements of these reforms have included trade liberalisation and regional integration. The Regional Development Banks, which are here today, in particular, have embraced trade and integration issues as one of the objectives for the promotion of economic growth and poverty reduction in their respective regions. Let me pay tribute to your institutions for the key role that you have played. Your work has provided momentum for trade liberalisation and development, and thus has contributed to our common objectives. The essential purpose for this meeting is to explore with you the role Regional Development Banks should play in supporting developing countries in the current trade negotiations, assisting them with implementation, and providing them with necessary support to benefit from the open trading system. Let me suggest several possibilities for your consideration.

I believe that key areas of collaborative work between the Regional Development Banks and the WTO could encompass trade mainstreaming, implementation and trade-related project-based assistance that will enable developing and least-developed countries to draw on the benefits of the open trading system, and training. WTO Members have requested the explicit involvement of Regional Development Banks in the implementation of the Doha Development Agenda. This partnership that the WTO seeks with Regional Development Banks constitutes one of the seven pillars of the WTO response to the Doha technical cooperation and capacity building mandates.

I would like to suggest eight areas where Regional Development Banks could work together with the WTO Secretariat - areas where we could achieve clear-cut synergies. They are as follows:

  • First, A Strategic Partnership: I believe that we should agree to establish a partnership for trade and development. This partnership will necessarily be work in progress. We will need to identify key aspects of our trade and development relations and pursue them within the framework agreed by all countries at Doha. I suggest that we establish at least annual policy dialogues at the level of Heads of Institutions, and regular periodic consultations at the level of officials for the implementation of the Doha Development Agenda. I welcome your views and advice on developing our partnership;
  • Second, Trade and Finance Ministers Policy Dialogues: Regional Development Banks possess great value-added in promoting policy dialogues among trade, finance and development communities in their respective regions. For instance, President Iglesias convened a meeting of trade and finance ministers of Latin America and the Caribbean in late February, where I was kindly invited to exchange views on “Capacity Building in the Face of the Emerging Challenges of Doha and the FTAA”. I was impressed by the quality of discussion on how the capacity building needs of the region could be met. I was grateful to President Iglesias for his offer of help to those countries in his region by providing not only grant support, but also soft loans to finance trade-related projects. I would be grateful if the development banks in other regions could bring together their trade and finance ministers in similar policy dialogues, including the WTO of course. Such dialogues could foster the consistency and complementarity of trade liberalisation and reforms at different levels.
  • Third, Trade mainstreaming: An area of comparative advantage for the Regional Development Banks is to ensure that trade priority areas of action are mainstreamed (distinctly reflected) into national development strategies and the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) of countries in your region. While trade is an engine for economic growth and can contribute to poverty reduction, the gains from trade cannot be realised unless trade policy and trade-related technical assistance are appropriately factored into the national planning frameworks. The support for mainstreaming trade is one of the key objectives of the WTO Secretariat's TA Plan, as well as that of the Integrated Framework. I seek your support in assisting countries in their mainstreaming efforts through your regional and country assistance programmes;
  • Fourth, Lending Facilities and Grant Funding for Trade-Related Projects: The demand from WTO developing and least-developed country Members and Observers for trade-related technical assistance and capacity building projects far exceed what the WTO can supply on the basis of the grant resources available to the WTO. I believe that it would be essential for those Members and Observers in your regions to be able to borrow — to draw upon financial resources in your facilities — to address specific priority needs such as for meeting the cost of domestic reform, for addressing supply-side challenges, for meeting the cost of negotiations, and for implementing the cost of their WTO commitments. All these will make it possible for them to then draw on the benefits of the open, rules-based trading system. If I may draw on two examples:
    • the Inter-American Development Bank: the IDB, for instance, has the Trade Sector Facility, which provides soft loans for specific activities which are intended to facilitate the implementation of trade agreements, including through institutional diagnostic studies, training of technical staff and negotiators, installation of computerised systems, and programmes to develop and diversify trade; and,
    • the Arab Trade Finance Programme provides a regional trade financing scheme to assist members of the Arab Monetary Fund in financing regional trade. These lending facilities undoubtedly contribute to the expansion of trade, both at the regional and global levels.
  • Fifth, Technical assistance, training and capacity building: Technical assistance and training are core WTO activities that contribute to the implementation of the Doha Development Agenda. It is my hope that our institutions will agree to activities in these two areas which are coordinated and jointly delivered. For instance, I am pleased to report that we have agreed to a set of activities with the Inter-American Development Bank. Next month, the Economic Commission for Africa, African Development Bank and the WTO will begin the delivery of the first-ever joint trade policy courses for Africa. Let me also share with you our proposal for the expansion our WTO Trade Policy Courses in association with developing country universities. This new trade policy training initiative is designed to fill a gap in the market: the development of a local infrastructure of training and research geared towards regional concerns, realities and priorities. The new courses would involve a transfer of ownership and this is capacity building in a very real sense. Our short term plan is to run two initial trade policy courses in Africa in coordination with universities in Casablanca for French-speaking, and Nairobi for English-speaking participants. Our longer term vision is to see this model, if it works, replicated in other regions in addition to these two, with scholarship funding being provided from a variety of sources: from foundations; from national governments; and from business. My suggestion here is for your special support to help start these courses with scholarship funding. Let me add that countries are often engaged in several trade negotiations - sometimes overlapping — at regional, plurilateral and multilateral levels. Given the weaknesses in their trade policy institutions and research facilities, developing countries often require support to evaluate different scenarios or impacts associated with reforms, the coordination of efforts with the involvement of the private sector, and the assessment of the costs and benefits of adjustment in trade policy. In our initial consultations with a number of developing countries, they have expressed the desire to see the greater involvement of Regional Development Banks in providing policy advice, which would be consistent and complementary to the national and regional development objectives. I believe that the Regional Development Banks can assist in this regard by supporting trade and finance ministers in establishing and strengthening national negotiating teams. I hope that we can work together in this area as well;
  • Sixth, the Doha Development Agenda Trade-Related Technical Assistance and Capacity-Building Database: Achieving coordination and coherence amongst agency and country providers of trade-related technical assistance remains a big challenge. Realistically, the demand for trade-related technical assistance will always be greater than the supply, because needs are infinite. Therefore, there is a clear need to ensure efficiency and effectiveness in TA delivery. As one of the ways to address this challenge, the WTO, with the support of the DAC/OECD, is currently developing a Doha Development Agenda Trade-Related Technical Assistance and Capacity Building Database, based on country files. This database will contain trade-related technical assistance and capacity building activities, reported on the basis of agreed categories. The purpose of the database is to improve coherence and coordination, maximise available resources, and minimize duplication. It will also act as a transparency mechanism in the exchange and sharing of information, holding all of us – both providers and recipients — accountable. The first product, which is expected to be available in October, won't be perfect, but this will provide a starting point. This initiative has already received strong endorsement from the IF Heads of Agency. I would also like to request your institutions, important providers of trade-related technical assistance in your respective regions, to agree to report into the agreed categories in this database. What will need to be reported are TRTA and CB activities that you currently deliver. I would be grateful if focal points can be established in your Banks for this purpose;
  • Seventh, Integrated Framework Partners: As you already know, there is an Integrated Framework amongst six core agencies: IMF, ITC, UNCTAD, UNDP, World Bank, and the WTO. This IF, focused on the least-developed countries and non-LDC low income countries, has provided a strong platform of cooperation for mainstreaming trade priorities into their PRSPs and for the delivery of trade-related technical assistance in a policy coherent framework. When the IF Heads of Agency met on 26 February, this year, in Washington, we explicitly agreed to seek the involvement of regional development banks in the implementation of the IF, as well as in the implementation of the Doha Development Agenda and beyond. While it took a while for the IF to start functioning, I believe that it is the only mechanism which makes sense in addressing the complex trade and development concerns of LDCs and other low-income countries in a coherent manner. The value of the IF was recognised and re-endorsed by Ministers at Doha, and also by the development community located in the Development Assistance Committee of the OECD. Regional Development Banks are natural contributors to the IF process. We have already established working relationships with some of you in the field. The scope for your intervention in the IF process is in the follow-up to the diagnostic trade integration studies (DTIS). The DTIS identify the constraints and competitive weaknesses that countries face in participating in international trade. The follow-up is to respond to the recommendations from the DTIS for priority TA and policy reform for overcoming the constraints. I would like to propose that your Banks be invited to a meeting of the Inter-Agency Working Group (essentially composed of the six core agencies). The Inter-agency Working Group is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the IF. At such a meeting, at which your representatives will participate, I suggest that discussions take place to explore how Regional Development Banks will be involved in not only strengthening coordination and coherence between multilateral and regional players in the field, but also in implementing the recommendations of the DTIS. This suggestion is in accordance with what the Heads of the core multilateral economic institutions agreed at the February Meeting, which is in a Joint Communiqué, before you today;
  • Finally, Follow-Up - Periodic Consultations: As I mentioned earlier, it is my hope that this partnership could proceed with annual policy dialogues at the level of an Heads of institutions, with officials meeting at perhaps six-month interval. I would hope that this would not be a one-off meeting. I hope to see this dialogue continued and enhanced. I believe that periodic consultations, on a rotating basis, could be considered to keep all of us fully engaged in the Doha process, and ensure the explicit and constant involvement of Regional Development Banks and the World Bank in the work of the multilateral trading system and the work of the WTO. [If such idea is agreeable to you, I would pass this message to my successor, Dr. Supachai, who I am sure will share the value of this partnership]. I am hopeful that the results of our consultations would be reported to WTO Members and Observers, at the appropriate body, and under appropriate agenda items.
This is why I have convened this meeting with you today. In this meeting, I hope that we can exchange views on how best we could work together in light of the momentum that has been created by Doha, but also in light of developments that trade and integration issues dominate discussions in all regions of the world today. In particular, it is my hope that we can identify areas of commonality and cooperation in responding the challenges and priority needs of developing countries in trade and development. May I invite you to offer your views on the issues I have suggested or any other.