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26 February 1998
WTO, UNCTAD and ITC launch a common trust fund for technical assistance to Africa in the Trade Sector
Issued jointly with UNCTAD and ITC

The World Trade Organization (WTO), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the International Trade Centre (ITC) will launch a Common Trust Fund this Sunday,
1 March, to support the implementation of a Joint Integrated Technical Assistance Programme in Selected Least-Developed and Other African Countries.

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The Integrated Programme aims to help African countries participate more effectively in the multilateral trading system and improve their export competitiveness. It reflects a strong commitment by the three organizations to coordinate jointly their efforts and resources for the development of African trade. Donor countries noted that a common trust fund would be a resource-efficient approach to cooperation among international organizations, donor governments and benefiting partner countries, and therefore strongly supported its establishment. The new Fund is the first such mechanism established jointly among the three Geneva-based multilateral organizations operating in the economic sphere.

The Common Trust Fund should reach a total in the range of US$ 10 million to cover programme requirements for the seven sub-Saharan partner countries and will consist of two windows. Window I is for unearmarked contributions, which will be used to finance national needs assessments, project development and advisory missions; activities for the collective benefit of participating countries; and complementary or full financing of country projects. Window II, for earmarked contributions, will be allocated to specific country projects. Managed by ITC, the Fund will be guided by a Steering Group consisting of donors, beneficiary countries and the secretariats of ITC, WTO and UNCTAD.

To date, those Governments that have indicated an intention to contribute to the Common Trust Fund are: Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

The Integrated Programme has initially focused on eight African countries, four of which are least developed: Benin, Burkina Faso, the United Republic of Tanzania and Uganda. The other four are the Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya and Tunisia. The Integrated Programme was developed following visits to Africa in January 1996 by Mr. Renato Ruggiero, Director General of WTO, and Mr. Denis Bélisle, Executive Director of ITC, and was announced by the three organizations involved on the occasion of UNCTAD IX in May 1996 in Midrand, South Africa.

For the African LDCs involved, the Common Trust Fund should help implement the results of the High-Level Meeting on Integrated Initiatives for LDCs' Trade Development held last October under the auspices of WTO, with the active participation of UNCTAD, ITC, the United Nations Development Programme, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. That meeting discussed how to facilitate LDCs' full integration in the world economy and the improvement and enhancement of coordinated actions by international organizations dealing with trade-related technical cooperation.

LDCs, most of which are situated in Africa, seek technical assistance in trade development and export promotion, to develop a regulatory framework consistent with the multilateral trading system and to improve their export capacity in order to benefit from this system.

Among the African Integrated Programme's activities are the strengthening of national capacities to address the trade implications of the WTO Agreements, a global electronic discussion forum and a global case network allowing national networks of trade experts to share experience. Surveys to determine the impact of WTO Agreements on national economies and external trade patterns will be undertaken in each country covered by the Integrated Programme.

The Integrated Programme also helps African countries to adapt their national legislation to WTO rules, and formulate strategies that will allow them to benefit from new market access conditions and make better use of the special and differential provisions for developing countries and LDCs. Finally, it enables beneficiary countries to set up trade information systems, formulate business development strategies and adapt business performance tools.

* * * For more information contact:

At WTO: Information and Media Relations Division
tel. (4122) 739 50 19, fax (4122) 739 54 58
e-mail: enquiries@wto.org

At a Glance

Common Trust Fund Joint Integrated Technical Assistance Programme in Selected Least-Developed and Other African Countries 

How the Fund Operates Back to top

The Fund is effective as of 1 March 1998. It is guided by a Steering Group which includes donor countries, recipient partner countries, and the secretariats of the cooperating institutions. Potential donors and recipient partners may attend as observers.

The Common Trust Fund has two windows. Window I is for unearmarked contributions, which will be used to finance national needs assessments, project development and other advisory missions; activities for the collective benefit of participating countries; and complementary or full financing of country projects. Window II is for country projects only.

ITC manages the Fund. As Fund Administrator, it provides the Steering Group with progress reports and consolidated annual financial reports. It forwards annual performance results carried out by those implementing the project. The Fund is subject to UN rules and regulations as well as general conditions adopted by the Steering Committee.

Background Back to top

WTO, UNCTAD and ITC developed the programme to respond to a call by African trade ministers in Tunis in October 1994 to help strengthen their capacity to participate in the new Multilateral Trading System and exploit new export opportunities in globalizing world markets. These basic needs were restated by African LDCs last October at a WTO-sponsored High Level Meeting for LDC Trade Development. Six international organizations jointly organized the meeting: WTO, UNCTAD, ITC, the World Bank, UNDP and the International Monetary Fund.

Programme Objectives, Activities Back to top

1. National capacity to understand and manage WTO Agreements

National trade development networks will be set up and linked through national Reference Centres, a Global Case Network to share best practices, and a Global Electronic Discussion Forum to assist in problem solving. Trainers in national institutions will be trained to provide information and advice on implications of the WTO Agreements for national trade development. National institutions are selected for their ability, in turn, to train and inform their own broad national networks. Trainers from six institutions per country will be enrolled in an intensive course in Geneva, sponsored by the three organizations. The course will be complemented by sub-regional workshops.

2. Strengthen trade and export policy and negotiating capabilities

National surveys on the impact of WTO Agreements on national economy and trade will be carried out. Conclusions will be presented at a national meeting. Participants will include policy makers, senior executives and technical officials from concerned institutions, who will, in turn, be speakers at further dissemination seminars for each country. This process will: - help national policy and regulatory frameworks adapt to current international trade rules; - take advantage of possibilities for transitional, special treatment for LDCs and developed countries for improved market access conditions, as set out in the WTO Agreements; - develop business strategies - for firms, sectors and the national economy - that take into account new policies and regulations as well as special market access conditions.

3. Improve institutional mechanisms to carry out the WTO Agreements

Trade ministry focal points, inter-institutional committee. These will be set up to implement and exploit Multilateral Trading System (MTS) rules, and serve as a national coordination forum for public and private sectors. The Programme will provide training, documentation and advice. It will include advice for relevant customs administration issues.

Reference Centres. Up to three Reference Centres will be established per country, at the Ministry of Trade for public officials, at a business development institution for the business community, and at a training institution for professors, students and researchers. Centres will be based on an existing trade information library, and build a dedicated documentation facility on MTS. Reference centres will also manage a network of resource persons to help individuals understand MTS rules and respond to specific questions. Resource persons will be selected from the national network of trainers.

Quality issues. Standards Boards will become enquiry points for quality requirements in foreign markets and technical trade barriers. The programme will train staff and specialized trainers of the Standards Boards for these purposes.

Professional associations, uentsbusiness development institutions. By becoming part of the national network of trainers, business support organizations will be better able to serve their constit.

Updating trade laws and regulations. The programme will provide assistance to redraft legislation no longer compatible with current rules, or initiate new legislation.

4. Develop supply-side response to MTS opportunities

Macro and sectoral analysis to define market niches. The Programme helps countries by carrying out national market research analysis by sector. The analyses pinpoint product sectors with the greatest comparative advantage potential, and give potential investors and export firms the background to develop appropriate strategies and products.

5. Improve access to export business services and performance tools

Improve Trade Information networks. The Programme complements (and is coordinated with) the Trade Efficiency Initiative, in which UNCTAD, supported by ITC, set up Trade Points and link them to the Global Trade Network. Through the programme's emphasis on networks, information systems and trained experts, it strengthens existing Trade Points or will establish them if they do not already exist.

Help small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to improve export capacity. The Programme will help countries customize two practical ITC guides that improve export operations. "Trade Secrets - The Export Answer Book" is a question-answer book about common export-related concerns, including procedures, forms, contacts and references. "How to Approach Banks" gives an overview of export finance possibilities and approaches, with sample forms, contracts, contacts and references.

Enhancing access to export finance. ITC will also carry out technical studies to define or enhance export finance schemes if necessary. A survey will review and analyse export finance instruments available, and make recommendations to create or improve them.