Thank you Mr. Chairman,
Last year was an intense — and successful — start to our Aid-for-Trade efforts, and I want to begin by thanking all of you, as well as your colleagues in capitals, for pulling behind this initiative in such a positive and constructive spirit. The Aid-for-Trade initiative continues to demonstrate what can be accomplished in this organization when we focus on our common interests — and it bodes well not only for the future of Aid for Trade, but for the WTO as a whole.
Allow me to also recall the important role that the CTD played last year in providing a forum through which members were able to maintain a continuous dialogue among themselves and with our partners on how to operationalise this initiative. As we proceed with this year's activities, the continued engagement of this body will be indispensable and I urge you to remain engaged.
Today's meeting is my first opportunity to discuss with you my proposed roadmap for 2008. This roadmap is very important and the contribution of the CTD will be central to its successful implementation. Last year we started the car and set off on our journey. We now need a clear, ambitious and achievable plan for 2008 if we want to maintain the momentum and reach our destination.
During last November's Global Review, I heard three clear priorities for this year — improving monitoring, moving on implementation, and strengthening developing-country ownership of the initiative. Let me explain how I think we can move forward on all three issues over the coming months.
First monitoring. I think we all agree that the first year's results were useful — thanks in large part to our very constructive partnership with the OECD — and that the monitoring mechanism we have established provides a solid foundation for future work. Nevertheless there is always room for improvement, and we are already moving in that direction. In terms of measuring global flows, I can report that the OECD is now adding a new category to its Creditor Reporting System — trade related adjustment — which will give us a more precise tool for capturing Aid-for-Trade flows in this area. As regards the donor and partner-country surveys, we are working with the OECD to make the questionnaires simpler, more user friendly, and more relevant to national planning. Obviously we would like to see a much stronger developing-country response to the surveys this year - but for that to happen we need to reduce the transaction costs and increase the incentives.
Where I see the biggest — and most important - challenge is in finding ways to measure the impact of Aid for Trade, not just the flows. This initiative will succeed only if it produces results. And we will know if it is producing results only if we can measure progress. What I would like to see developed is a basket of performance indicators to help assess trade capacity in developing countries — a kind of league table that would give countries a clear objective to aim for and provide all of us with incentives for even greater efforts. There are already a large number of relevant indicators out there, and I see no reason to reinvent the wheel. I have asked the OECD, the World Bank and others to look at the range of existing indicators and to suggests possible options. These will be discussed at an Expert Symposium part way through the year.
The second main message from the Global Review is that we need to shift our focus from awareness raising to implementation. Already I see unmistakable signs of increased focus, planning and resource mobilization around Aid for Trade — in countries, in regions, in other international agencies, and even here in the WTO. We need to encourage this activity and keep up the momentum. The Regional Reviews came up with clear recommendations for taking this initiative to the “next level”, and I would like to suggest how we can follow up in a concrete way.
My proposal is to hold a limited number of National and Sub-regional Aid-for-Trade Reviews in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Asia and the Pacific in 2008. These Reviews, unlike last year's events, would be more focused, technical, and results-oriented, with the aim of assisting in advancing — and then monitoring — the implementation of concrete national and especially sub-regional plans. Each Review would be structured in three parts: assessing or “road-testing” Aid-for-Trade plans, identifying priorities, and agreeing on how these plans and priorities should be implemented. The objective would be two fold: to showcase how Aid-for-Trade strategies can progress and are progressing; and to creating incentives for others to follow suit. The Reviews would be hosted by the participating national government or regional organization in cooperation with lead donors and key regional and international agencies. The results would be profiled in the next Global Aid-for-Trade Review — which I proposing we hold in the first half of 2009 in order to allow all of us time to produce some real results.
We are already in discussion with our partner agencies about possible candidates for this first generation of national and sub-regional reviews. I would also urge countries and lead donors to examine whether they are at a stage in their own Aid-for-Trade planning where they feel their initiatives would benefit from this kind of multi-stakeholder “spotlight” — bearing in mind that there is a limit to the number of reviews we can conduct this year, and that, if successful, the process will be extended to other countries and regions in subsequent years.
We also need to focus on how we can encourage those countries that want to harness Aid for Trade, but lack a national plan — and lack the capacity to formulate one. Here I think the EIF can — and must — play a central role for LDCs. The EIF is country driven, it is all about helping countries to develop Aid-for-Trade plans, and it is now newly structured and newly funded to do a much better job of getting plans launched and mainstreamed into countries' development priorities. It is the central platform for submitting funding needs to donors, beyond the financing already available in the EIF's own Trust Fund. We need to get the EIF up and running — as soon as possible. We also need a creative response to the planning needs of non-LDCs and of regions — which are not covered by the EIF.
I also hope that 2008 will focus the work of the Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF) on specific project implementation.
The third message from the Global Review is that developing countries need to be even more actively and directly involved in the initiative. This is obviously the most important message because empowering developing countries is what this initiative is all about. Let me say that I think we have reason to be optimistic on this front, and that there are very encouraging signs that countries are increasingly motivated to take a lead. To repeat, there is already a growing list of countries that are in the process of holding — or planning to hold — Aid for Trade events as a way mobilizing both domestic constituencies and international support. In the end, nothing succeeds like success. The real key to ensuring developing-country ownership of this initiative is to produce results. Which is all the more reason why we need to keep up the momentum.
My final observation is this. I think last year was successful in large part because we got the strategy right. By raising awareness about Aid for Trade — and shining a spotlight on the challenges — we created incentives for the key actors to start talking, planning, cooperating and mobilizing — without trying to prescribe solutions from the top down. I believe that we should stick to this bottom up strategy, and that the WTO should remain an advocate, a catalyst and a facilitator, but not a leader. That is a job for donors, for development agencies, regional development banks, and above all for the countries themselves. As I said at the beginning, we have got the car started and it is accelerating. If we can make progress in the areas I have just sketched out — measuring trade-capacity, moving on implementation, and getting developing countries even more actively involved — then the journey in 2008 will be another success.
I look forward to hearing your comments.
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