Good morning. I would like to extend a warm
welcome to all of you on the occasion of this formal launch of the WTO
Chairs Programme. I should particularly like to welcome those of you
from out of town, both the Chairholders from 14 universities around the
world, and those members of the Advisory Board who were able to find the
time to come to Geneva. It is also good to see some of the Geneva trade
community here in support of their national WTO Chairholders.
As many of you know, the WTO Secretariat has
been entrusted by the WTO membership to cooperate with governments in
developing countries to enhance knowledge and understanding of the
multilateral trading system and to facilitate more effective
participation in its work. This is the raison d'être of our technical
cooperation programme. Our efforts in this area have expanded
considerably since the beginning of the Doha Round in 2001. We take this
mandate very seriously and we are always on the lookout for ways of
improving our game. We care about this because we believe that trade is
an essential accompaniment of growth and development, and in order to
benefit fully from the opportunities offered by trade, countries must be
expert in identifying their trade interests, articulating them, and
negotiating with trading partners for mutually beneficial outcomes.
For some time now, starting with our regional
trade policy courses with which some of you may be familiar, we have
sought partnerships with academic communities in developing countries.
Since our mandate is to support governments, one might ask why, then, do
we seek to work with universities? The answer is simple. We believe that
the scholarly community is a source of valuable knowledge in any
country. It brings to the table insights, understanding and a legitimacy
that outside specialists can only partly hope to offer.
The WTO Chairs Programme, then, is an
important plank of the Secretariat's strategy for academic support on
capacity building, as reflected in our Technical Assistance and Training
Plan. We believe in the particular contribution of national universities
and research centres to the discussion and analysis of issues of public
interest, including trade policy. Most governments around the world rely
on those contributions and analytical capacities to formulate sound
I should like to congratulate the 14
institutions that have been selected in this first phase of the
programme. The award of a Chair is an acknowledgment of the competence
of the selected institutions and the dedication of its scholars. It is
also an encouragement to your researchers and students to take an
interest in multilateral trade matters, a cornerstone of international
As you well know, trade issues by nature
require a framework that takes a holistic view of the world economy.
This is not only because of inter-linkages among the various sectors in
any economy, but also because of the relationships between sectors in
one economy and the economies of the rest of the world. Through your
analytical contribution, you can help explain the workings, benefits and
challenges of the trading system. Academics can help citizens understand
and cope with the complexities of international business and
globalization. They can also foster greater awareness and informed
debate on international trade issues.
The ultimate objective of the WTO Chairs
Programme is to strengthen the human and institutional capacities of
universities from developing countries to support governments in the
formulation of sound trade policies. The programme also seeks, through
the Chairs, to support and facilitate the involvement in the process of
other relevant stakeholders, such as the private sector, non-state
actors and civil society. Policies that are understood and supported by
the public at large are far more likely to succeed than those that are
simply imposed, whether by internal or external decision-makers.
Each one of the universities selected for the
programme has put forward its own work plan, specifying the intended
output. I understand that you will be discussing these projects amongst
yourselves over the next couple of days. The projects generally comprise
a mixture of elements — increased course offerings on trade,
policy-relevant research, and outreach activities aimed at raising
awareness of trade-related policy issues. These are your proposals, and
your projects. You own them. We are here to help, not to lead.
It is in this spirit that we have designated
counterparts from the Secretariat to work with the Chairholders. It is
for you, the Chairholders, to indicate what you need from us. As I have
said, we stand ready to help in whatever way we can, obviously bearing
in mind our own resource constraints.
We look forward to seeing progress. I believe
that the first two years of the programme are crucial in terms of
demonstrating to the WTO membership, and in particular the contributors
to the Global Trust Fund, that this is a good way to use their
resources. Some concrete output early on in the programme will serve to
demonstrate the relevance of this approach, and that will be essential
if we are to continue with, and expand, the programme.
Let me, finally, thank the Secretariat staff
for their hard work on this programme, which was efficiently steered by
Deputy Directors-General Valentine Rugwabiza and Alejandro Jara.
I wish you every success in your endeavours.
Thank you for your attention.