10 September 2003

WTO, UNIDO to work together on trade-related technical assistance

World Trade Organization Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi and UNIDO Director-General Carlos Magariños signed an agreement today in Canún which will provide a framework for the two organizations to work more closely together to assist developing countries participate meaningfully in international trade.

The agreement, in the form of a memorandum of understanding (MOU), formalizes a relationship between the WTO and UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization) that has grown closer since Dr. Supachai took the helm at WTO in 2002.

“The success of the Doha Development Agenda is critical for the achievement of the UN Millennium Development Goals,” said Dr. Supachai. “When it comes to technical assistance and capacity building, strengthening capacities to negotiate and implement WTO rules is not enough. Success will only come through result—oriented coordination with other agencies, like UNIDO, the UN Specialized Agency with the mandate to assist with the development of the productive capacities of industry.”

UNIDO’s Director-General, Carlos Magariños, said : “Until Doha, ‘trade-related’ technical assistance was almost synonymous with WTO-related technical assistance. Now it is increasingly understood that to be effective, trade-related technical assistance has to attend to the whole ‘product to market’ chain. In addition to capacities relating to the Multilateral Trading System, developing countries need capacities to produce competitive exportable products that conform to international standards. That is where UNIDO comes in. This agreement is a milestone for the developing countries — and for UNIDO”

Developing country participation in international trade and investment flows is seen as the way out of the poverty trap. It is a big factor in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Traditional “trade-related” technical assistance and the removal of trade barriers have already helped some countries, but many developing countries, in particular the least-developed among them, have not yet reached the threshold where they can take full advantage of initiatives.

There is a consensus among developing countries that they need to improve their supply side capacities, to diversify and increase the value added of their export base and reduce the reliance on volatile low-value added commodities.

The WTO—UNIDO Agreement is a formal recognition that assisting developing countries to build capacities to produce exportable products is an important part of “trade-related” technical assistance and capacity building.