An Arab Coalition of Services Industries (ACSI) was launched on 19 April at the UNCTAD Global Services Forum held here.
The Forum, held two days before today’s opening of the UNCTAD XIII quadrennial conference, was told that the ACSI will bring together representatives from various services sectors of Arab countries and will promote partnerships and cooperation among them to support development of the services sector in the Arab region. One area of focus for the Coalition will be the knowledge economy. The new entity also will advocate raising the profile and awareness of the services sector so as to allow the region to better harness the tremendous potential of services trade and prosperity of world-class Arab services businesses.
ASCI was conceived and proposed at the initiative of Talal Abu-Ghazaleh Organization (TAG-Org) and UNCTAD.
TAG-Org is the largest Arab group of professional services firms.
Globally, the services sector accounts for 50 per cent of the Gross Domestic Products of developing countries. Acting at the urging of UNCTAD Secretary-General Supachai Panitchpakdi and of Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari, the Qatari Minister of Culture, Arts and Heritage, participants decided that the Forum, which provides a unique opportunity for all those engaged in the services sector, should meet regularly. Mr. Supachai told the meeting that considering the economic importance of services – which range from such activities as financial services, distribution, and energy supply, to professional, business, health, and education services -- the Forum should be institutionalized as an outcome of UNCTAD XIII.
The Forum was co-organized by UNCTAD, TAG-Org and the Commonwealth Secretariat in partnership with the China Association of Trade in Services, Australian Services Roundtable, European Services Forum and Arab NGO Network for Development. It attracted government Ministers, high-level policy makers, business leaders, representatives of coalitions and associations of services industries, and civil society representatives from around the world. Also attending were officials of the World Trade Organization, the World Bank, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the International Telecommunication Union, the United Nations World Tourism Organization, the African Union, the Africa, Caribbean, and Pacific Group of States, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the International Trade Centre, the Asian Development Bank, and the Africa Export-Import Bank.
Participants highlighted the catalytic role played by the services sector and services trade in promoting inclusive development, greater participation in global supply chains, and employment creation. They called on UNCTAD to scale up further its analytical work on services to address capacity constraints faced by developing countries in building competitive productive capacity in services of the kind that promotes inclusive and sustainable development. They also requested UNCTAD to strengthen support to developing countries in building sound regulatory and institutional frameworks on services and in formulating policies to promote these countries’ effective participation in trade negotiations on services.
UNCTAD has carried out increasing research on the services sector in recent years, focusing on the regulatory and institutional dimension of infrastructure services and performing Services Policy Reviews at the request of member governments. Thursday, Secretary-General Supachai said such work will be substantially strengthened.
The Forum also served as a launching pad for two new innovative UNCTAD publications: Services, Trade and Development, financed by the International Development Research Centre, Canada, and Regulatory and Institutional Dimension of Infrastructure Services.