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8 October 2002

Introductory remarks by Director-General Dr. Supachai to the COMTD on item C: technical cooperation

Thank you Chairman for this opportunity to appear before the COMTD to offer brief introductory remarks on WTO Technical Assistance and Capacity Building. This is an important subject for me. I have reflected on the subject extensively. It is one of the four pillars that I have established for the period of my work as Director-General. I took this decision, knowing the vital importance that effective trade-related technical assistance and capacity building play in trade development. Dr. Rana, my deputy, will supervise this brief, which will continue to receive my direct attention and the priority attention of Senior Management.

The 2003 TA Plan, which is before you today, is a key element in my evolving thoughts on this subject. It is also based in part on consultations with you, on how WTO Technical Assistance will be better structured to meet present priorities and future challenges. The Director of Technical Cooperation Division will review with you the details of the plan, but let me share with you several overall points influencing my thoughts.

First, together we need to establish a clear strategic sense of the areas of WTO Technical Assistance and Capacity Building. Where will WTO comparative advantage be best applied? I believe that the skills of our competent Secretariat staff will be best used in technical assistance to build effective capacity for trade negotiations. But TA to build capacity for trade negotiations is not the totality of all TA. This is why we need to effectively coordinate WTO skills with those of relevant multilateral agencies to deliver technical assistance for the understanding of the rules and their implementation. In this regard, I place high premium on collaboration with UNCTAD, ITC, UNDP, the World Bank, the IMF, the World Customs Organization, the International Standardizing Bodies, and others. Another key element is technical assistance for the construction of commercial infrastructure, which will enable developing and least-developed countries to draw on the benefits of improved market access and the open, rules-based trading system. Here, the WTO has no comparative advantage, but as the primary trade institution we will seek coordination and advocate such TA with development institutions and bilateral donors. The role of the World Bank, UNDP, UNIDO, and several others will be key. On our part, the Secretariat will be principally focused on what it does best, i.e., TA to build effective capacity for negotiations;

Second, the Least-Developed Countries will continue to have priority focus in our TA Plans. The 2003 TA Plan proposes several new products to take account of their special needs. At the same time, we need to be aware that there are several regional challenges to which we need to respond. Countries in these regions have needs as critical as those of the LDCs. These include countries in Africa, South and Central Asia, the Caribbean, and others. The Doha Ministerial Declaration established a Work Programme on Small Economies; there are modest and capacity constrained missions in Central, Eastern Europe and the transition economies; all these are challenges and priorities that we have endeavoured to respond to in the 2003 TA Plan. We will continue to refine and improve;

Third, to achieve universality of the organization, we also need to attach priority attention to the acceding countries. The 2003 TA Plan addresses acceding country TA priorities. In this context, we will focus on the LDCs' Work Programme. I know that Ambassador Molander (Sweden) is working hard in this regard. I will give him maximum support from the Secretariat;

Fourth, based on consultations that I have held, I know that TA recipients attach great importance to systematic, cumulative and sustainable capacity building. In this regard, a significant improvement has been made in the 2003 TA Plan. New products have been designed to reflect member's needs, including intensive short trade policy courses, training of Senior Government Officials on the Doha Negotiations; consolidation and extension of the internship system; training-of-trainers programmes. The work of the Technical Cooperation Division, the Training Institute and the Trade Policies Review Division (all three with high TA components) have been properly inter-faced. Mr. Osakwe will be explaining this in detail;

Fifth, I agree with members that we should accord premium in our TA activities to quality and not quantity. Consequently, we are reducing the number of discrete activities so as to improve quality and increase coverage. There is a tighter linkage between national and regional activities. The Director of the Audit Division has developed new tools and processes for evaluating our training and TA activities. In the course of the implementation of our annual TA Plans, Mr. Rolian will be providing periodic reports to the membership;

Sixth, perhaps, the greatest challenge in our TA work, indeed in all our work, is the demand for result-oriented coordination with other agencies; coordination with bilateral donors; and, coordination within recipient countries. We must proceed with a greater sense of urgency on coordination and coherence. We need to continue the process of building strategic partnerships and building synergies with agencies, donors and recipients. There is modest progress, but clearly more needs to be done. The JITAP review has yielded important insights. We need to build on its successes. The Integrated Framework is the best hope for medium to long-term trade development. Modest successes have been achieved in such countries like Cambodia. Beyond the three pilots, the IF is currently under extension to 11 more countries. I am closely reviewing this file, and I am in consultation with several, such as the Ambassador of Mauritania, to examine current challenges and determine how best to address them. The Heads of IF Agencies have agreed to meet next year to address several issues. Clearly, the speed of IF implementation must be accelerated, if it is to remain relevant. Follow-up to the results of the diagnostic studies must be taken much more seriously and be based on clear procedures. I will report to the membership on this shortly. But at the moment, I can say that the support of the development agencies and the bilateral donors is critical if the IF is to work as it was designed to work;

Eight, I want to assure the membership that the Secretariat's TA objectives are not simply focused on the next WTO Ministerial Conference at Cancun. My objective as Director-General is to establish the architecture of WTO technical assistance that will last beyond the Cancun Ministerial and the Doha Negotiations. I believe that we have well begun that process; and, with your support we shall achieve that objective. What we now need to do is consolidate what we are currently doing, and do it better, refine TA and training materials, and achieve sustainability and cumulation;


I would like to assure Members that together with Senior Management, I will work to ensure improved coordination within the Secretariat ľ using the Technical Assistance Management Committee ľ to address the incidence of such problems as ad hoc activities, and improve implementation and delivery of TA. However, the support of TA recipients will be needed in this regard. My report as mandated by Ministers under paragraph 41 of the Doha Ministerial Declaration will be circulated to the membership by mid-November. Indications, thus far, are that we are on track to responding credibly and effectively to the technical cooperation and capacity building commitments in the Doha Ministerial Declaration.

May I conclude Chairman, by expressing my appreciation to the donors for establishing predictability in WTO TA funding. My appreciation also to the recipient countries for the clarity of their priorities and their inputs, which laid the basis for a significantly improved WTO Annual TA Plan for 2003.

I would now like to invite Mr. Osakwe to briefly review the process for compiling the Plan; the main features of the requests; and the key elements of the 2003 TA Plan.