The World Trade Organization (WTO), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the International Trade Centre (ITC) will launch a Common Trust Fund (see Annex) this Sunday, 1 March, to support the implementation of a Joint Integrated Technical Assistance Programme in Selected Least-Developed and Other African Countries.
The Integrated Programme aims to help African countries participate more effectively in the multilateral trading system and improve their export competitiveness. It reflects a strong commitment by the three organizations to coordinate jointly their efforts and resources for the development of African trade. Donor countries noted that a common trust fund would be a resource-efficient approach to cooperation among international organizations, donor governments and benefiting partner countries, and therefore strongly supported its establishment. The new Fund is the first such mechanism established jointly among the three Geneva-based multilateral organizations operating in the economic sphere.
The Common Trust Fund should reach a total in the range of US$10 million to cover programme requirements for the seven sub-Saharan partner countries and will consist of two windows. Window I is for unearmarked contributions, which will be used to finance national needs assessments, project development and advisory missions; activities for the collective benefit of participating countries; and complementary or full financing of country projects. Window II, for earmarked contributions, will be allocated to specific country projects. Managed by ITC, the Fund will be guided by a Steering Group consisting of donors, beneficiary countries and the secretariats of ITC, WTO and UNCTAD.
To date, those Governments that have indicated an intention to contribute to the Common Trust Fund are: Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
The Integrated Programme has initially focussed on eight African countries, four of which are least developed: Benin, Burkina Faso, the United Republic of Tanzania and Uganda. The other four are the Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya and Tunisia. The Integrated Programme was developed following visits to Africa in January 1996 by Mr. Renato Ruggiero, Director-General of WTO, and Mr. Denis Bélisle, Executive Director of ITC, and was announced by the three organizations involved on the occasion of UNCTAD IX in May 1996 in Midrand, South Africa.
For the African LDCs involved, the Common Trust Fund should help implement the results of the High-Level Meeting on Integrated Initiatives for LDCs’ Trade Development held last October under the auspices of WTO, with the active participation of UNCTAD, ITC, the United Nations Development Programme, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. That meeting discussed how to facilitate LDCs’ full integration in the world economy and the improvement and enhancement of coordinated actions by international organizations dealing with trade-related technical cooperation.
LDCs, most of which are situated in Africa, seek technical assistance in trade development and export promotion, to develop a regulatory framework consistent with the multilateral trading system and to improve their export capacity in order to benefit from this system.
Among the African Integrated Programme’s activities are the strengthening of national capacities to address the trade implications of the WTO agreements, a global electronic discussion forum and a global case network allowing national networks of trade experts to share experience. Surveys to determine the impact of WTO agreements on national economies and external trade patterns will be undertaken in each country covered by the Integrated Programme.
The Integrated Programme also helps African countries to adapt their national legislation to WTO rules, and formulate strategies that will allow them to benefit from new market access conditions and make better use of the special and differential provisions for developing countries and LDCs. Finally, it enables beneficiary countries to set up trade information systems, formulate business development strategies and adapt business performance tools.