Advancing Sustainable Development through Trade, the Road to Bali and Beyond

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THE PROJECT

Timeline: 2012 – 2014

Donor: Switzerland (SECO)

Beneficiaries: LDCs and thr LDC Group of the WTO

 

Background

As WTO members prepared for the WTO Ministerial Conference in Bali (December 2013), they faced several challenges. One related to the need to complete or at least to make significant progress in the stalled Doha negotiations; the other was the need of the multilateral trading system, including the WTO, to be more responsive and better equipped to deal with international trade realities.

The present project aimed at influencing these two separate, yet complementary challenges by, first, providing tailor-made technical assistance and policy analyses to LDCs on issues that were the subject of negotiations and could have led, eventually, to agreements among WTO members in Bali, such as  trade facilitation and a “mini package” including specific elements for LDCs; and, second, to engage with WTO members, experts and other stakeholders in a dialogue through the Bali preparatory process and beyond on new and emerging issues that were essential for the well-functioning of the multilateral trading system, namely food security, global value chains, climate change, regional agreements, and WTO governance.

The project was divided into two major components: 

  • The “E15 Initiative” component which fell under ICTSD’s responsibility.
  • The “Assisting the LDC Group Initiative” component under IDEAS Centre’s responsibility.

ICTSD and IDEAS Centre combined their respective strengths and comparative advantages to support poorer countries by undertaking the following two-pronged approach:

First, ICTSD focused on the identification of potential solutions to the emerging issues highlighted above with the help of a series of expert groups. Each group, made of roughly 15 top experts (E15), developed a set of well-reasoned “policy options” on how the WTO could better face these challenges. The expert groups were supported in their deliberations by targeted research and short think pieces. Throughout the process, the set of “policy options” developed by each group was made available to and discussed with WTO members and, at the end, merged into a final report released during the Trade and Development Symposium (TDS) that ICTSD organized in conjunction with the Bali Ministerial Conference.

Second, IDEAS Centre addressed the challenges faced by the LDCs group. In particular, the efforts under this component focused on the need to manage initial common defensive positions and diverging interests of its members in the more specific and advanced negotiations which required the elaboration and adoption of compromise positions. Discussions focused on the one side on specific LDCs’ interests within the “small package” as defined by them and on the other side increased their awareness on the new issues elaborated and discussed in the E-15 Component.

Objective

The key objective of this project was to assist least-developed countries to fully participate in the multilateral trading system in line with their general sustainable development goals. LDCs needed both: 

  1. To be fully involved in the negotiation process,
  2. To be able to define proactive positions which had a chance to be adopted by the WTO community, 
  3. To be aware of future challenges on trade-related emerging issues (such as climate change, innovation, etc.) as well as systemic issues that impact the governance of the multilateral trading system (global value chains, RTAs, megadeals and plurilaterals).

“the key objective of this project was to assist least-developed countries to fully participate in the multilateral trading system”

Activities

  • Active collaboration with the LDC Group/coordinator/focal points to both work out credible negotiating positions and train LDC representatives to negotiation tactics.
  • Strengthening the dialogue amongst LDCs countries to build consensus-oriented positions, and between LDCs and OECD and middle grounders representatives to improve mutual understanding of each other’s positions and red lines. 
  • Awareness-raising on LDC issues through regular publication of newsletters and articles, participation in dedicated pre and post-Bali fora (ACP, ECOWAS, CDP-Dhaka), organisation of sessions on LDC issues at the Bali Trade and Development Symposium.
  • Active participation of the Centre in the work of ICTSD’s E15 groups to raise awareness and strengthen the capacities of LDCs on the topics dealt with by the E15 expert groups through dedicated sessions and newsletters.