WTO: 2014 NEWS ITEMS

WTO CHAIRS PROGRAMME


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Speech by DDG Brauner

Your Excellency Mr Jelassi, Minister of Higher Education, Scientific Research, and Information and Communication Technology,

Your Excellency Mrs Harrouch, Minister of Commerce and Crafts,

Your Excellency Mr Gouiaa, Secretary of State to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,

Mr Ben Aziza, Rector of the University of Tunis,

Mr Ben Abdallah, Director of the Tunis Business School,

Mrs Baghdadi, WTO Chair Holder,

Honourable deans, professors and members of the faculty of the University of Tunis,

Dear students,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a particular pleasure for me to represent the WTO Director‑General, Roberto Azevêdo, and to be here among you today, at the University of Tunis, to officially inaugurate the WTO Chair recently awarded to your university.

Although this is my first official visit to Tunisia as a representative of the WTO, I have in fact been here before. Several times I have had the opportunity to visit Tunisia, and it is always a pleasure to return.

I am very happy to be here among you today, in Tunis, for the official inauguration of the WTO Chair.

When I was working for the German Government, I visited your country a number of times and witnessed its development first hand. I also visited all of the other countries in the region, and I can assure you that your country inspires considerable hope for the future.

In 2012, following your revolution, I deliberately chose Hammamet as a holiday destination in order to support tourism and contribute to the transition process in your country.

Only four days ago, you held free and democratic elections. The mere fact that this was possible, and that they took place peacefully, fills me with optimism for your country's future.

It is therefore with the greatest respect for your accomplishments that I address you today, and I wish you every success in your efforts to move your country forward. My hope is that by awarding the WTO Chair to the University of Tunis and the Tunis Business School, my Organization will be able to contribute, however modestly, to the achievement of your great ambitions.

Ladies and Gentlemen, let me begin by welcoming the high-level representatives of the Government of the Republic of Tunisia and extending them my warmest thanks for doing us the honour of participating in this inauguration in spite of their very heavy work schedules. Their presence testifies to the interest and importance of this Chair for your Government, and I can only welcome this enthusiasm.

THE WTO CHAIRS PROGRAMME AND TRADE CAPACITY BUILDING

WTO Members recognize the importance of technical assistance and training activities as core elements of the development dimension of the multilateral trading system. This is part of our Aid-for-Trade agenda. I am pleased to announce, in this connection, that the Fifth Global Review of Aid for Trade will take place in June 2015, and will focus on the topic of reducing trade costs for inclusive, sustainable growth. I encourage the Chair of Tunisia to respond to the recent call by the WTO and the OECD for the presentation of a case study to illustrate how trade facilitation can improve competitiveness, and ultimately facilitate foreign trade transactions.

Technical assistance is an important component of our mandate. We have a biennial plan, drawn up in close cooperation with the beneficiary countries, that catalogues our activities aimed at helping the developing countries to derive the maximum benefit from the multilateral trading system. On the academic front, we have developed a strategy of participation in development and capacity building in academic institutions. The WTO also supports teaching, training and research activities through a number of programmes that are generally interlinked to maximize the synergies. In addition to the Chairs Programme, we have developed a regional trade policy course. In fact, for two years now, Tunisia has been hosting the regional trade policy course for French-speaking Africa in partnership with the University of Manouba. This course provides officials with two months of training on technical subjects relating to the multilateral trading system, and I know that it is highly appreciated by participants from French-speaking Africa.

The WTO Chairs programme was launched in 2009 with the objective of enhancing knowledge and understanding of matters relating to the multilateral trading system among academics in the developing countries. In fact, this programme was essentially inspired by the need to develop the human and institutional capacities required to better understand and analyse the mechanisms underlying trade policy and to stimulate interaction between the academic world and policy makers.

The WTO Chairs Programme helps to decompartmentalize these two spheres and thus to establish a better dialogue between those responsible for defining and conducting trade policy, and academics who are able to provide the empirical data and quantitative assessments needed to guide them in their decisions.

The programme rests on three pillars: curriculum development, the encouragement of new research activities, and support for outreach activities by universities and research institutions.

In 2009, the WTO Secretariat awarded 15 Chairs on a competitive basis, of which 14 are in operation today. They are located throughout the world, and five Chairs were initially awarded to academic institutions in Africa: Kenya, Morocco, Mauritius, Namibia and Senegal.

The results achieved following the implementation of the first phase of the programme (2009-2013) speak for themselves. All of the Chairs made significant progress in the trade policy area in respect of each one of the pillars: academic research, teaching, and outreach activities.

Let me illustrate this with an example. Last year, we organized the Global Review of Air for Trade, which brings together all of the international agencies working on trade capacity building as well as the different countries and beneficiaries for a few days of discussions. At this meeting, six WTO Chairs presented case studies on the constraints facing their countries in the market access area. All of these studies were published, with concrete economic and trade policy recommendations. Thanks to the involvement of policy makers in these presentations and the development of direct channels of communication between them and the academic world, the policy makers were able to benefit from this local expertise and follow whatever recommendations they deemed appropriate or of strategic interest. Ultimately, the aim of our programme is to build up local expertise in the trade policy area.

Building on the success of the first phase and the interest shown by our Members and the academic community, we sent out a second call for candidates in 2013, and seven new institutions were selected and invited to join the WTO Chairs network.

I am delighted to be able to welcome the University of Tunis and the Tunis Business School into this international network. The selection process was particularly rigorous and demanding. We received 77 applications for only seven available Chairs. With the help of the Secretariat, each one of these applications was painstakingly reviewed by a consultative committee made up of eminent persons from the research community, recognized for their academic standing.

The TBS's project was stimulating, and placed notable emphasis on the research and training components. I am convinced that we will not be disappointed. Nor, in my view, is it insignificant that this year, four of the seven Chairs awarded went to women.

I would like to take advantage of this opportunity to extend my warmest thanks to the Government of the Netherlands, which is financing the second phase of the Chairs programme. It is our ongoing duty to optimize the resources that have been allocated to the Secretariat and to ensure that they are managed in such a way as to produce concrete results, and this support will enable us to pursue the work that was initiated in 2009.

TUNISIA AND THE WORLD ECONOMY, IMPLEMENTATION OF THE BALI PACKAGE, AND THE WTO'S CONTRIBUTION TO INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Tunisia's economic outlook for 2014 is encouraging, with growth expected to exceed the 2013 rate of about 2.6%. The Tunisian economy is seen as an emerging economy, and its particularly export-oriented growth model rests on a strategy of diversification and integration in global value chains. Growth is expected to continue picking up speed in 2015 following the legislative and presidential elections.

In terms of trade potential, the countries of the region provide Tunisia with a range of opportunities. Various simulations have pointed, for instance, to a significant potential for trade in North Africa, with Algeria in particular. Tunisia is also in a good position to benefit from the new growth frontier represented by Africa as a whole.

The Bali Ministerial Conference was a milestone in the history of the WTO. It was there in Indonesia, in December 2013, that the Ministers adopted the "Bali Package", a series of decisions aimed at streamlining trade, allowing developing countries more options for providing food security, boosting least developed countries' trade, and helping development more generally. The Trade Facilitation Agreement is the first ever multilateral agreement negotiated by the WTO since its creation in 1995. However, Members have encountered serious problems in implementing the Bali outcomes, in particular when it comes to the holding of stocks of agricultural products and the Trade Facilitation Agreement, with the result that Members have been unable to agree on the modalities for ratifying the protocol on the Trade Facilitation Agreement.

Implementing the Bali Package is not only about generating new growth opportunities for all of the WTO Membership. As WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo stated at the launch of the World Trade Report, it is also, and above all, about reinforcing a global partnership which firmly establishes trade opening at the service of development. At a time when many countries, in particular the least developed countries, are not in a position to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, we are duty-bound to do everything we can to break the current deadlock and revive the "spirit of Doha".

Concluding the Doha Round would be the best way of ensuring that trade contributes to growth and plays a decisive role in a global compact in favour of growth and development.

CONCLUSION

Tunisia has traditionally excelled in the educational area, and the award of this Chair is simply further recognition of the crucial role that your educational system can play in the socioeconomic development and emergence of Tunisia. Your advantage is youth, an educated youth, which guarantees the sustainability of your future development and of your growth model. Investment in education always pays off, and I am convinced that this Chair will contribute significantly to shaping your country's trade strategy in the future.

I would also like to thank the Minster of the Economy and Finance, Mr Hakim Ben Hammouda, whose idea it was to launch this programme with other colleagues in 2009, when he was Director of the WTO Institute for Training and Technical Cooperation. At the same time, I would like to thank Mr Abdelhamid Garbi, Mrs Fatma Brahim, Mr Jalel Snoussi, Mr Mustapha Mezghani and Mr Ahmed Ben Hassine, who spared no effort in helping to prepare this event.

Finally, I would like once again to extend my sincerest congratulations to the Rector of the University, Mr Hmaida Ben Aziza, and through him to congratulate the faculty members who have tirelessly contributed, day after day, to transmitting knowledge and educating generations of students. And I congratulate the Chair holder, Dr Leila Baghdadi, and the members of her team whose task it will be to make the Chair operational and provide it with a regional and even a continental dimension.

On behalf of WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo, I wish the WTO Chair of Tunisia every success and thank you for your kind attention.

 

The Tunis Business School of the University of Tunis was officially inaugurated into the WTO Chairs Programme at a ceremony attended by Deputy Director-General Karl Brauner

 

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