Factsheet on trade related technical assistance

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Building trade capacity: what are the main objectives?

The main objective of Trade Related Technical Assistance (TRTA) provided by the WTO Secretariat is to build long-lasting human and institutional trade capacity and to enhance ownership through training and technical cooperation. The Secretariat's programmes are contained in the Technical Assistance (TA) Plan, which follows a 'product' based approach, mostly tailored to beneficiaries' needs. TRTA is primarily geared towards government officials from developing and least-developed countries and acceding countries. In order to reach out, the audience can also include representatives from civil society, academia as well as the private sector.

What kind of activities and how many?

Annually, the WTO Secretariat organizes some 500 Geneva — and field —based TRTA activities, trains several thousands of officials, both representing some 30,000 participant/days of training. This compares to the scarce human resources in the Secretariat, and the limited absorption capacity in beneficiary countries. Whenever feasible, a selection process is conducted for the attendance to those courses. Most WTO divisions are associated with the its delivery. A series of 15 training courses are held at the WTO headquarters, annually. Interactive training includes lectures, presentations, round-tables, meetings with experts, simulation exercises and attendance to WTO meetings. In addition to the Geneva based and Regional Trade Policy Courses (TPCs/RTPCs), as well as the regional seminars, workshops and training events open to all eligible beneficiaries, developing countries are entitled to two national activities, Least developed Countries (LDCs) to three. For national technical assistance, countries are invited to submit their request in writing, to the Secretariat, preferably based on needs assessments.

The delivery of TRTA has increasingly become focused and specialized, with base training being assured through the TPCs and RTPCs, eTraining and distance learning. In terms of national vs. regional activities, some two third are held at the national and one third at the regional level. This is consistent with the notion that more targeted TRTA is required at the national level. The vast majority of activities specifically address WTO Agreements, e.g. services, assistance provided in support of the TPRs, SPS, market access issues (NAMA, customs valuation, rules of origin), TRIPS, development issues, trade facilitation and rules.

While a key objective is to maintain a geographical balance in the delivery of activities, particular attention is given to Africa, which benefits from over one third of activities. Nearly 20 percent of WTO's TRTA is geared towards Asia and the Pacific, and half of the activities cover Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Arab and Middle-East, and the Caribbean.

How about Least Developed Countries (LDCs)?

LDCs are associated with over 40 per cent of all TRTA delivered, including national activities held in LDCs, regional seminars, workshops and training activities to which LDCs are invited. Thus, in line with the Doha Declaration, priority attention is given to LDCs. Some products are specifically or largely geared towards LDCs, e.g. the (Enhanced) Integrated Framework (IF) and JITAP, the three-week Introduction Courses for LDCs, Geneva Weeks, the Reference Centres Programme, the Netherlands Trainee Programme (NTP), support provided in the needs assessments and TPRs. LDCs are entitled to three national activities and receive priority attention in the accession process. More generally, and whenever possible, priority is given to LDCs in the selection process for Geneva-based training courses.

What are the costs?

The implementation of the TA Plan costs around CHF 30 Million: CHF 6 Million is financed from the regular WTO budget and CHF24 Million in extra budgetary funding. One of the key challenges for the Secretariat is to enhance stability and predictability in financing TRTA, as well as ensuring the timely receipt of the moneys.

How about the partners?

The WTO cooperates with a large number of international organizations and bodies, mainly based on the notion of comparative advantage. In practice, close to 20 percent of activities consist of WTO's participation in events organized by or in cooperation with other agencies and to which the Secretariat is asked to make a contribution, as well as WTO's representation in trade-related conferences, symposia and high-level meetings. In the same spirit, the WTO outsources some of its activities and makes use of the services of external consultants, who participate in the delivery of regional and national activities, covering both general and specific issues, and undertake research collaboration. Through the process of RTPCs, university professors and researchers collaborate with the WTO and the host university as lecturers.