39th session of the Joint Advisory Group on the International Trade Centre UNCTAD/WTO, Statement by Ambassador Sarala Fernando (Sri Lanka)- Geneva, 24 April 2006

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure, in my capacity as Chair of the 2005 session of the Joint Advisory Group meeting, to open this thirty ninth session.  I welcome Mr. Pascal Lamy, the Director General of WTO and Dr. Supatchai Panitchpakdi the Secretary General of UNCTAD.   Equally I recognize Mr. Denis Bélisle Executive Director of ITC, his successor-designate Mrs Patricia Francis and Mr Stephen Browne, the recently appointed Deputy Executive Director.  UNCTAD, WTO and ITC must be congratulated for the smooth execution of the plan for the succession of ITC’s senior management team.

Let us now proceed with item I on our agenda today, the election of the Bureau.

I call for a proposal for the Chair, two Vice-Chairs and Rapporteur of this thirty eighth session.

Ambassador Ali (Bangladesh) you have the floor, Sir.

Thank you Mr. Ambassador

May I call for support to this proposal?

Ambassador Stephenson (Canada), you have the floor.

Thank you and my felicitations to you Ambassador Whelan to Mr. Zhang, Mr. Kassaja and Mr. Somarriba on your well deserved election.  Of all the meetings, committees and expert groups I have chaired over the last 2 years since my arrival in Geneva, I can safely say that chairing ITC JAG has been the most rewarding; the documentation was well prepared; Mr. Bélisle and his team ensured there were no ‘surprises’; and all delegates had only nice things to say – so it was an altogether a most positive experience !  I now wish to invite Her Excellency Mary Whelan Ambassador of Ireland, to take her place on the podium and to thank her most sincerely for having accepted to chair this meeting.  I also invite the Rapporteur to take his place.

Statement by H.E Sarala Fernando, Ambassador/Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka at the Annual Meeting of the Joint Advisory Group (JAG) of the International
Trade Center  (thirty-ninth session)
24 April 2006 (Item 3: General debate)

Madam Chair,

Please accept our sincere felicitations to you and  other members of the Bureau on your election.  We have every expectation Madam Chair that with your experience and personal skills, you will guide this important Session of JAG to its successful conclusion.          

I thank Mr. Pascal Lamy and Dr. Supatchai Panitchpakdi, representing WTO & UNCTAD, as the parents of ITC, for their inspiring addresses and Mr. Denis Bélisle, the Executive Director for his comprehensive presentation on ITC's work during the year 2005. As usual, the documentation for this meeting is of high standard and distributed in time, reflecting the professionalism that we have come to expect  of this institution. 

This session of JAG takes  place at an important juncture. Firstly, we will soon be commencing  the first formal  discussion of the Mid-Term Review (MTR) of UNCTAD. Secondly, WTO members, pursuant to the Ministerial in Hong Kong, are in the process of making important decisions for establishing full modalities in key areas of WTO negotiations (Agriculture and NAMA).  As we have witnessed in the past, the current  WTO trade talks have gone through a bumpy road with a number of turn arounds, from setbacks to recalibrations of ambition and eventual consolidation, since the Round was launched in Doha.  We must avoid any setbacks in the interest of fulfilling the developmental commitments agreed in Doha.  If  WTO members fail to find agreement soon, we face the danger of putting off the conclusion of the Doha Round by many years.  With UNCTAD and WTO as the ITC’s parent organization, we hope that the discussions at this Session of JAG will assist in the consensus building required on the MTN process,  the outcome of which in turn will influence  ITC’s own future work for trade development.  For example, in the context of the recent WTO Aid For Trade (AFT) Initiative, ITC should assume new responsibilities utilizing its expertise and appropriately redesigning its programmes to deliver activities on TRTA.  ITC can also offer ideas on how best the views of the private sector could be reflected in the final phase of WTO negotiations. 

With these background remarks, I now wish to make a few comments on specific substantive issues on ITC’s technical cooperation activities set out in its Annual Report of 2005. We commend ITC’s achievements during the year 2005, increasing its programme delivery by 4.6% over the previous year.  We further note from the Annual Report some 400 training  workshops have been organized in 2005,  more than one per day.  It is encouraging to note that a total of 184 projects were operational. Given the relatively small staff strength of the organization, we are impressed with these high performance indicators; the effective coordination by ITC efforts and events across the globe is surely an example to other UN organizations in this era of organizational reform.

Madam Chair,

One of the tasks assigned to this  Advisory Group would be to review the past activities of ITC and formulate recommendations on its future work. In this context, it is more appropriate   to make a few comments here on the findings of the External Evaluation of  ITC activities,  recently completed  with the support of a group of donors led by Denmark.

My delegation, considers the Evaluation Report very comprehensive and as having come up with some useful recommendations.  It has given due recognition to ITC’s comparative advantage in carrying out trade related technical assistance noting also its accumulated knowledge, experience and the network contacts maintained with Trade Support Institutions (TSI) of developing countries.  We are pleased to note ITC’s positive reaction to the recommendations of the External Evaluation.

As regards ‘How ITC should evolve in the future”, the external Evaluation Report  has posed three  basic questions. Of these, on the issue of optimal allocation of resources between the two main options for delivery of TRTA: global products (known as Track 1) and  country specific projects (known as Track 3) we wish to make two  observations:

1·  Firstly, one should not underrate the significant contribution that ITC’s various global products have made to integrate small and medium size business enterprises to the multilateral trading system. For example, world trade net and market analysis services (MAS) are  useful and effective tools available on line, facilitating the conduct of  basic market research.  The business enterprises and Trade Supporting Institutions (TSI) have made positive assessments on the practical relevance of these global products and therefore they should continue to be an integral part of ITC’s future work.

2·  Secondly, it is important to strike an appropriate balance when allocating resources between global products and ITC’s country specific  interventions. There appears to be some degree of imbalance here, judging from the  findings of the Evaluation Report which states that ITC trust fund for delivery of global products has increased from 60 to 70 percent in 2004.  In order to be more effective and pragmatic, these two modes of delivery channels of TRTA should be mutually supportive and  complementary to each other. 

The importance of country level intervention has also been emphasized during the recent discussion of Aid for Trade (AFT) that has now risen to the top of global trade policy agenda. ITC could be strategically poised to play a key role in delivering whatever the Aid For Trade Package that might emerge by making more emphasis in its future work plan on
country specific projects for capacity building and supply side constraints in a holistic manner. With its technical expertise in trade development, its experience in networking and in building supply side capacities of business enterprises of developing countries, we believe ITC is the institution best equipped to effectively contribute to AFT.

We fully agree with the recommendation that beside its main focus on MDG 8 (partnership for  development) ITC must also make an effort to institute an “MDG Lens”  in designing and implementing its future activities with the intent of better contributing  towards poverty reduction and gender equality objectives.

As in the past, ITC’s  current SME focus in many areas of its work should continue. This is important because SMEs need trade related technical support to keep up with the current phase of a rapidly expanding global economy. Successful integration of SME into the MTS, enhancing their productive capacities and international competitiveness, applying integrated ICT solutions to their business processes, training of SME managers, improving their ability to meet international quality standards   are precisely the kind of assistance that many developing countries require. In Asia  emerging out of an year of unprecedented natural disasters, where, in the reconstruction phase, our focus is on raising productive capacities and promoting employment, especially through SME development, we will continue to value ITC work in this area. 

Madam Chair,

ITC has implemented a number of projects in my country  during the year 2005.  We wish to thank ITC and its staff and most importantly the donors for their financial support  that made possible the execution of these  trade-related technical assistance (TRTA) programmes in Sri Lanka.

One of the highlights of ITC’s activities in Sri Lanka during the year 2005 was the launch of the EU-sponsored Trade Development Project.  We are particularly pleased with the Sri Lanka-driven character of this project and we are satisfied  with the overall  implementation of progress made under its two components: (1) human resources development and institutional strengthening on WTO-related issues (2) the development of private sector export capacity.

On the former, the successful completion of several training courses was very timely, given the current  intensive phase of WTO negotiations. Both public sector officials involved in trade policy formulation and market analysis, as well as  private sector mangers of enterprises and entrepreneurs involved in various aspects of export trade have been benefited.

Sector specific  export development activities under the EU Trade development project, were also successfully launched in September 2005. The export development programme, covering Textiles and Garments; and Gems and Jewelery sectors  have already produced positive results including establishing solid business contacts and confirmed orders.

During the year 2005 on our specific request, ITC also successfully launched a trade in services project under EU’s  Asia Trust Fund.  My delegation wishes to thank the EC – the key financial sponsor of above two projects and ITC for their efforts.

We also acknowledge with appreciation the support of GTZ, which assisted ITC to implement SHAPE sector strategy development project covering four sectors in Sri Lanka.  Apart from above mentioned country specific projects Sri Lanka has also benefited from several other activities under ITC’s global products.

In conclusion, I would like to place on record our appreciation to the Executive Director Mr.
Denis Bélisle for having successfully completed the transitional arrangements for the senior management team of the ITC, according to the plan he laid out at last year’s JAG.  Comparing the gloomy situation at ITC 12 years ago when Mr. Bélisle was first appointed and the high point today, at which he leaves with excellent performance indicators and praise from member countries on all sides, I think Mr. Executive Director, you should be extremely satisfied.  The legacy of hope and optimism that you leave with ITC will be long remembered as an example of what can be achieved within the UN system with effective leadership.  Our best wishes to you for every success in your future endeavours and we warmly welcome the Executive Director designate and the new senior management team and wish you also all success in your tenure of office at ITC.

I thank you Madam Chair. 

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