Geneva-based international trade bodies reaffirm united front in support of sustainable development

05 October 2015

UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi welcomed the heads of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the International Trade Centre (ITC) to discussions at UNCTAD's Trade and Development Board on 21 September.

In discussions with WTO Director General Roberto Azevêdo and ITC Executive Director Arancha González, UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi reiterated UNCTAD's belief in multilateralism and highlighted the importance of delivering tangible development-oriented outcomes at the Tenth Ministerial Conference of the WTO in Nairobi, Kenya from 15 to 18 December 2015.

Dr. Kituyi also outlined the wider role of trade.

"At UNCTAD, we are not just interested in quantifying trade as such. We are interested in the intersection between trade and development, particularly inclusive prosperity," Dr. Kituyi said.

UNCTAD and the WTO collaborate in a number of fields, including technical cooperation, capacity building and training initiatives, as well as research and analysis. The Aid for Trade initiative is an important example of the joint efforts between UNCTAD and the WTO.

Mr. Azevêdo reaffirmed the strong cooperation between UNCTAD and WTO in helping to realise the benefits of trade for development.

"When we join forces I think we can achieve a great deal," Mr. Azevêdo said. "I think there used to be a perception that UNCTAD and the WTO had quite different agendas. But that is not the case today."

UNCTAD and ITC closely cooperate in numerous areas, among which the UNCTAD led UN Inter-Agency Cluster on Trade and Productive Capacity, joint programmes implemented under the umbrella of the United Nations Development Assistance Frameworks and, jointly with the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) on trade facilitation in the context of the implementation of the Bali Ministerial Declaration and the ministerial decisions adopted in the context of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to name a few.

In her remarks, Ms. González said that helping small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in developing countries connect to international markets allows many to access the benefits of trade. Connecting SMEs to global supply chains can ensure that the gains from trade can often go to sectors of the economy that tend to be easily marginalized, she said.

Ms. González highlighted the compelling role of SMEs as the missing link for inclusive growth. She also expressed the important role of trade as a vehicle for women's economic empowerment - "but only if women are able to connect to markets as entrepreneurs, employees, producers, and consumers."

"While women own close to 40 percent of SMEs worldwide, ITC business surveys from twenty developing countries suggest that only about one-fifth of firms that engage in trade are led by women," Ms. González said.

Collectively badging their organisations as the "Geneva trade hub", the heads of UNCTAD, the WTO and the ITC said they remained united to support delegations and governments to foster positive outcomes for sustainable development in upcoming trade-related forums such as the WTO's Tenth Ministerial Conference in December and UNCTAD XIV in 2016.