Trade Advocacy Fund

Côte d’Ivoire joins ACWL with TAF support

December 20th, 2016 by

TAF News Item

On 13 December 2016, at a ceremony held at the ACWL, Côte d’Ivoire signed its Protocol of Accession to the Agreement Establishing the ACWL. Côte d’Ivoire becomes the 34th developing country Member of the WTO to join the Advisory Centre on WTO Law (ACWL). Côte d’Ivoire is both the first country in West Africa and the first sub-Saharan francophone country to become a member of the ACWL. At the signing ceremony, Niall Meagher, Executive Director, welcomed Côte d’Ivoire to the ACWL, and said that he looked forward to providing the ACWL’s assistance to Côte d’Ivoire in the New Year. He also thanked the United Kingdom for the assistance provided to the ACWL activities in general and in particular to Côte d’Ivoire with its accession through the Trade Advocacy Fund (TAF), On behalf of Côte d’Ivoire, His Excellence Ambassador Kouadio Adjoumani said that Côte d’Ivoire was pleased to become a Member of the ACWL. He said that Côte d’Ivoire’s membership of the ACWL would be essential to enable it to develop its technical capacity to participate in the multilateral trading system and he looked forward to making good use of the services of the ACWL. Ambassador Adjoumani also expressed Côte d’Ivoire’s gratitude for the support provided by the United Kingdom through TAF. Mr. Andrew Staines, Deputy Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom Mission to the WTO, expressed his support for the work of the ACWL and said that his Government, through TAF, was very happy to assist Côte d’Ivoire in becoming a Member of the ACWL. He looked forward to a positive relationship between the ACWL and Côte d’Ivoire with ongoing support from TAF. Ms Elsbeth Akkerman, Chairperson of the General Assembly of the ACWL, also welcomed Côte d’Ivoire to the ACWL and looked forward to Côte d’Ivoire participating in future meetings of the General Assembly. All developing countries that are Members of the WTO or in the process of acceding to the WTO are entitled, by virtue of their WTO Membership or process of accession, to become Members of the ACWL. The 42 least-developed countries (LDCs) that are Members of the WTO or in the process of acceding to the WTO are automatically entitled to the services of the ACWL without having to become Members of the ACWL. Côte d’Ivoire’s accession to the ACWL formally takes effect 30 days after the signing of the Protocol of Accession. Following Côte d’Ivoire’s accession, 76 countries/customs territories, or just under half of the Members of the WTO – are entitled to turn to the ACWL for advice on WTO law, support in WTO dispute settlement proceedings and legal training. Note: This article first appeared on the ACWL website.

The Comoros starts WTO Accession negotiations

December 8th, 2016 by

On 2 December 2016 the working party on the accession of the Comoros to the WTO held its first meeting. The Comoros and the working group have committed to timely negotiations, setting the “ambitious but achievable target” for completion by the 11th Ministerial Conference (MC11), scheduled for December 2017. Ambassador Chávez Basagoitia of Peru is chairing the working party, with the delegation of the Comoros being led by Vice-President Mr Djaffar Ahmed Said Hassani.

The Comoros has commenced the complex WTO accession process with enthusiasm. The Vice-President noted that this remains a core priority of the Government as they see “trade is an irreplaceable tool to put the country on the path of economic growth”. The Comoros has been engaged in the accession process since it first applied in February 2007. Since then, the working group was established and the Comoros has been preparing extensive documentation on its negotiating position.

The preparations for the negotiations have been greatly aided by a TAF grant. From August 2014 to September 2016, TAF supported the Government of the Comoros in preparing the materials necessary for this process. In July 2015 the Government of Comoros filed its goods and services offer, a major milestone in the accession process. The TAF intervention substantially contributed to this outcome as the experts helped to prepare the first draft and provided technical notes on various aspects related to the offer. During the meetings on 2 December the members of the working party noted the quality and extent of the documents provided by the Comoros to form the basis for the discussions.

In addition, the TAF grant ensured the delivery of tailor-made training to relevant stakeholders in the Comoros, increasing their familiarity with and capacity to draft such documents. TAF support also increased the capacity of the staff of the Ministry of Trade and the members of the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) to conduct negotiations, skills that will be paramount in upcoming talks.

For further details, see the press release at https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news16_e/acc_06dec16_e.htm

 

TAF meets with Somaliland stakeholders to discuss capacity development

November 29th, 2016 by

As part of the final stages of programme implementation, the TAF Fund Manager is completing a Results Harvesting report to document lessons learned and gain insight into how key stakeholders assess the capacity building efforts of TAF grants. As part of this exercise, a member of the Fund Manager team met with a delegation of senior Somaliland officials in November to discuss their experience of TAF support.

Since June 2015, TAF support to Somaliland has been designed to support the government of Somaliland in its bilateral negotiations with the government of Ethiopia. These negotiations covered both trade and transit between the two countries; rules governing Ethiopia’s access to the port in Berbera were a key focus of the discussions. TAF has delivered seven outputs under the capacity building and training work strand, including multi-day courses on subjects such as trade and transit agreements, trade in services, trade facilitation, the Port Utilization Agreement, international conventions and practices, border crossing and transport facilitation along with direct coaching to senior officials engaging in trade negotiations.

All of the stakeholders consulted in the November meetings agreed that the TAF capacity development outputs had been highly relevant, tailored to the local context and addressed important capacity gaps directly. One member of the technical team indicated that 95% of the content had been directly useful to him in his work and highlighted the material on transit and logistics as particularly pertinent. Participants in the TAF trainings also reported enhanced theoretical understanding of trade agreements and trade policy, the World Trade Organization agreements and COMESA regulations.

This increased knowledge and understanding had, stakeholders reported, had enabled them to identify Somaliland’s interests in their negotiations with Ethiopia, and appreciate the significance of the port in Berbera. The key stakeholders relayed that TAF training in theses areas proved useful in both the drafting of negotiation documents and the conduct of negotiations with Ethiopia, which did led to the conclusion of the Port Utilization Agreement in March 2016. In the view of the Somaliland Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Saad Shire, concluding the Agreement would not have been possible without TAF support.

TAF undertakes results-harvesting mission in Malawi

November 29th, 2016 by

Once the trainers have and civil servants return their desks, how do we know whether a training event has made a difference? This was the focus of a recent mission to Malawi undertaken by the TAF Fund Manager. During a three day visit, we interviewed a wide cross-section of the trade policy community in Malawi to get their feedback on the achievements of a series of week-long trainings conducted under one of our projects with the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT).

 The Director of Trade at the MoIT, Ms. Chatima, expressed her gratitude for the support from TAF, which is funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID). Malawi’s negotiating agenda is busy, with five sets of major negotiations running in parallel. TAF support had delivered “a good framework” to manage those negotiations, and the training “was very well received” by her staff. She looked forward to further cooperation with TAF and DFID in the future. 

Malawi is one of the world’s poorest countries – and because it is landlocked, the way it manages its trade policy is of key importance for its growth prospects. During the visit to Malawi, the TAF Fund Manager could determine that staff retention, a year and a half after the training, had been high. This means that most of the people trained are getting the opportunity to apply what they have learnt in their daily work and make a difference.

 Exposure to high quality trainings on Trade Policy is rare for Ministry staff in Malawi. The opportunity to engage with world-class experts for sustained periods of time on issues such as Rules of Origin, NTBs and negotiation tactics created a palpable sense of enthusiasm amongst the participants interviewed. The emphasis on policy-making process management and creating offensive and defensive positions seems to have struck a chord with many of those involved.

Ms. Chatima remarked that the challenges for Malawi and her ministry were growing as the topics covered by trade policy expand: “The areas we cover are very wide and keep expanding. We need experts on many topics”. In this context technical assistance from development partners like TAF and DFID was as relevant as ever: “Trade in Services in particular is an area where there are opportunities for us. Perhaps this is something we could envisage receiving assistance and training on in the future”.

 

 

TAF team visits the Pacific to harvest results & learn lessons

October 31st, 2016 by

south-pacific-photoThe TAF Fund Manager team recently embarked on a mission to the Pacific region to collect information and lessons from stakeholders as part of a results harvesting exercise.

The visit, which took place from the 24th  to 28th October 2016, had the objectives of assessing the relevance of the capacity building outputs of TAF grants in the region, identifying their intended and unintended results at individual and organisational level, and highlighting lessons learnt from the assistance that could be carried forward in TAF 2. The three identified TAF grants and beneficiaries that were assessed in the Pacific include:

TAF’s grant to the Ministry of Trade, Tourism, Commerce and Industry in Vanuatu to develop negotiating strategies and build negotiating skills.

  • TAF’s support to the Office of the Chief Trade Adviser (OCTA) and Forum Island Countries in PACER Plus negotiations with Australia and New Zealand.
  • TAF’s assistance to the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat (PIFS) in for negotiations on the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union.

An important focus of the visit was to measure the sustainability of the training component of the TAF grants, with indicators looking at the number of TAF-trained officials that are currently in employment and who utilize the skills and knowledge gained from the training activities.

During the visit to the PIFS Secretariat, the team called on PIFS Deputy Secretary General, Andie Fong Toy, who expressed her thanks to the TAF project for the support granted to the Secretariat and Member States, in building trade negotiating capacity. Discussions with PIFS highlighted a key outcome of TAF support as providing a baseline and reference point for Member States in conducting subsequent negotiations, such as the PACER Plus negotiations and potential negotiations with New Caledonia and China. The consultation also surfaced issues which generally hinder the sustainability of capacity building assistance, such as high staff turnover.

Consultations held with Vanuatu’s Department of External Trade, which has recently moved from the Ministry of Trade to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, further highlighted the usefulness and benefits of TAF sponsored training at the individual level. For Vanuatu, this has in turn strengthened the capability of its National Trade Development Committee (NTDC), as the TAF trainees serve as members of the Committee and the Department of External Trade serves as its secretariat.

TAF grant puts a spotlight on services trade data to aid negotiators

October 31st, 2016 by

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Over the past two years, TAF has been supporting a grant on trade in services aimed at contributing to the increased and more effective participation of developing countries and their associated RECs in multilateral, regional and bilateral services trade negotiations. One of the biggest constraints identified in achieving such an outcome has to do with the availability of services trade data.

Services trade data is of notoriously questionable quality, with concerns (both in developed and developing countries) surrounding accuracy, consistency and availability. While improvements have been achieved in recent years, many developing countries still do not have sufficiently detailed services trade data to underpin services negotiations and policymaking. In particular, available services trade data in low-income countries and LDCs often lack both partner and sector disaggregation. Without this, negotiators and policymakers are hard-pressed to identify what services they are trading with whom, and by extension, where their offensive and defensive negotiating interests may lie. This is especially so in the context of South-South trade (as so-called ‘mirror data’ from developed countries can often be used to shed light on North-South flows).

Through work led by International Lawyers and Economists Against Poverty (ILEAP), CUTS International Geneva and the Centre for the Analysis of Regional Integration at Sussex (CARIS), a ‘Services Data Collection Training Module’ has recently been published to offer guidance and strategies for developing country officials to better collect and compile services trade data. The materials are intended for officials from central banks, national statistical institutes as well as Ministries of Trade, Commerce, Finance and others interested stakeholders.

The module brings together a number of publications commissioned under the TAF grant. Firstly, a training video and accompanying presentation provide an introduction to trade in services data and its related challenges, before going on to review insights about the ‘good practices’ of other LDCs and LICs for improving their trade in services data collection. This is largely drawn from the underlying research paper Identifying Good Practices in LDC/LIC Services Trade Statistics Collection. With a view to providing more practical guidance and strategies for officials to better collect and compile data on services trade, the training module includes a toolkit titled Improving Services Data Collection in Least-Developed and Low-Income Countries. Lastly, to distil and highlight some of the key findings and conclusions of the module for a broader audience, there is the Briefing Paper Services Trade Data in LDCs & LICs: Challenges, “better performers” and pathways for improvement.

The Services Data Collection Training Module, alongside a host of the other project publications and services-related resources, are available for download at www.tradeinservices.net. (Please note user registration is required).

Argentina to host the WTO’s 11th Ministerial Conference in 2017

October 6th, 2016 by

The next WTO Ministerial Conference will be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This was confirmed at the recently held WTO General Council Session on 3rd October 2016 in Geneva. The first South American country to host the biennial meetings, Argentina made the offer alongside Uruguay but the latter withdrew its proposal, letting Argentina take the lead. The specific dates for the MC11 meeting are yet to be confirmed but it is slated to take place in early December 2017.

The WTO Ministerial Conference is a gathering of Trade Ministers from WTO Member Countries who meet once every 2 years to take decisions on topics under the multilateral trading system, particularly the Doha Round of trade talks.

The last Ministerial Conference (MC10) which was held in Nairobi, Kenya, resulted in adoption of the “Nairobi package” which was essentially an agreement of a cluster of Ministerial Decisions on Cotton, Agriculture and on issues related to Least-Developed countries (LDCs). Specifically, the package includes a commitment to abolish export subsidies for farm exports, a decision on public stockholding for food security purposes, a special safeguard mechanism for developing countries, and measures related to cotton. There was also an agreement reached on the preferential treatment for least developed countries (LDCs) in the area of services exports and the criteria for determining whether exports from LDCs may benefit from trade preferences.

The areas of focus for the next Ministerial Conference are yet to be decided, but Trade Ministers have been urged to provide the necessary political leadership and engagement in the coming months to agree on negotiation topics. This is seen as key to continuing with the positive momentum gained from MC9 in Bali and MC10 in Nairobi. Possible areas of focus for MC11 include digital trade, enhancing the participation of small and medium-sized enterprises in the trading system, and services trade facilitation. LDCs will also want to ensure that development related issues remain a key consideration in the MC 11 agenda.

 

AU hosts Third Meeting of the CFTA Negotiating Forum

October 6th, 2016 by

Hosted by AU Commission’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in Addis Ababa from 3rd to 7th October 2016, the main objective of the Third Meeting of the CFTA Negotiating Forum (CFTA-NF) is to consider and adopt Terms of Reference for the remaining Technical Working Groups; and to consider and adopt the Modalities for the CFTA Negotiations in trade in goods and trade in services. The main expected results are therefore adopted Terms of Reference (ToR) for the remaining Technical Working Groups (on Rules of Origin, Sanitary and Phytosanitary measures, Trade Remedies and Customs Procedures and Trade Facilitation) as well as an adopted Modalities for the CFTA Negotiations in trade in goods and trade in services.

The meeting will be attended by Chief Trade Negotiators from all eligible Member States of the African Union. It will also be attended by Trade Officials from the following RECs and institutions; AMU, CEN-SAD, COMESA, EAC, ECCAS, ECOWAS, IGAD, SADC, UNECA and the African Development Bank.

The 25th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union which was held in Johannesburg, South Africa in June 2015 launched the negotiations for the establishment of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA). The launch of the negotiations marked a major milestone in the implementation of the Summit decision to establish a Continental Free Trade Area by 2017. The objective of negotiating the CFTA is to achieve a comprehensive and mutually beneficial trade agreement among the Member States of the African Union. The CFTA Negotiating Forum was established by the Assembly and is composed of Officials from African Union Member States. It has the responsibility of conducting trade negotiations at the technical level and it reports to the Committee of Senior Trade Officials on its negotiation activities. The CFTA Negotiating Forum also has the responsibility of preparing quarterly reports on progress made in the negotiations highlighting areas requiring higher level intervention to the Committee of Senior Officials, Ministers of Trade, the High Level African Trade Committee (HATC) and the Assembly.

To date, two CFTA Negotiating Forum meetings have successfully been conducted. In particular, the Second Meeting of the CFTA Negotiating Forum was organized back to back with the Meeting of Senior Trade Officials and African Ministers of Trade at the Headquarters of the African Union Commission from May 16 – 24, 2016. On this occasion, the Meeting of the African Union Ministers of Trade which was held on May 24, 2016 adopted the Rules of Procedure for the CFTA Negotiating Institutions (TI/CFTA/AMOT/ROP/Final); the Definitions for the CFTA Negotiations Guiding Principles (TI/CFTA/AMOT/1/GP/Final); and subject to adoption of the Modalities, the work plan for the CFTA NF.

The Trade Advocacy Fund financed a grant to the AUC DTI which supported the preparation stage of the CFTA Negotiations from October 2014 to May 2016, including supporting the preparation of the Rules of Procedure and the Definitions for the Guiding Principles.

WTO Post-Accession Forum in Nairobi held for Liberia and Afghanistan

August 24th, 2016 by

The WTO and UNCTAD recently co-organised a Post-Accession Forum for Afghanistan and Liberia which took place in Nairobi, Kenya. The Forum reviewed how the two countries will benefit from WTO membership while granting representatives the opportunity to outline their hopes for their newly acquired membership in the WTO.

At the forum, the international community committed itself to continuing support to the countries in undertaking necessary domestic reforms and advancing the two countries in developing their international trade agenda. Also attending the Forum were other LDCS negotiating their WTO accession, current members and bilateral and multilateral development partners.

TAF has supported two least developed countries (LDCs) in their WTO accession negotiations: Afghanistan and Comoros. TAF supported the Afghan Ministry of Commerce and Industry which enabled them to navigate WTO and to prepare for their first WTO Ministerial Conference in Nairobi 2015. Following 12 years of negotiations, the WTO Ministerial Conference in December 2015 approved Afghanistan’s accession to the WTO. Afghanistan will become the 164th WTO member on 29 July 2016.

TAF has also supported Comoros in their WTO accession and enabled them to achieved a number of milestones in their ongoing WTO accession process. In July 2015, the Government of Comoros submitted its first market access offers to the WTO, which served as an important milestone in their accession to the WTO.

New online portal on WTO accession launched

August 24th, 2016 by

The WTO recently launched a new online portal that provides improved access to information on WTO accessions and many new features. The new features offered by the portal include:

  • direct access to all notified legislation in completed WTO accession processes since 1995
  • a Legislative Action Plan Register for all members that have joined since 1995
  • an interactive tracker, which provides comprehensive information on the status of ongoing accessions
  • an interactive WTO accessions map with a time bar allowing users to see the evolution of WTO membership since 1995.

The WTO’s Accession Intelligence Portal is available at: https://www.wto.org/accessions

TAF delivers workshop for West African trade officials

July 29th, 2016 by

DSC_5601As part of its trade capacity building support to the ECOWAS Commission, TAF recently delivered a workshop for West African trade officials on the WTO Dispute Settlement System. The workshop, which took place between 13-15 July in Dakar, Senegal, was co-sponsored by GIZ, and delivered by trade law experts from the Advisory Centre on WTO Law (ACWL), the IDEAS Centre, and the International Trade Institute of West Africa.

The workshop was attended by representatives from Ministries of Trade, Ministries of Justice and export promotion agencies as well as the ECOWAS Commission and Parliamentary Committee on Trade.

Participants obtained useful knowledge on WTO law such as the WTO Dispute Settlement Mechanism, and gained insight into the services and resources available to ECOWAS member states, such as the legal advisory services offered by the ACWL.

TAF has supported the ECOWAS Commission through a trade negotiation capacity building project since 2013. The workshop was the result of a request made by the ECOWAS Commission and a stakeholder needs assessment carried out by TAF, which identified WTO Dispute Settlement as an area where capacity was lacking among ECOWAS Member States. For further information about the the workshop, please follow this link to the ECOWAS webpage. IMG_3407

TAF support for capacity development in Somaliland

July 26th, 2016 by

TAF has been supporting Somaliland to enhance the trade, transit and negotiating competencies of key government agencies and develop the knowledge base to develop informed trade negotiating positions to address some of the country’s pressing challenges including the trade deficit with Ethiopia. During July 2016, The TAF funding supported a training workshop entitled “International Conventions and Best Practices on Border crossing”. The training took place over three days  between 19-21 July 2016 in Hargeisa. The workshop was attended by Somaliland representatives of the Ministry of Trade & Investment, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Public Works and Transport, Ministry of Planning, Customs and Immigration in addition to private sector representatives. Participants appreciated the format and content of the training workshop. One participant wrote to the trainer: “Thanks for enhancing my expertise in field of transport and transit , I’ll try to incorporate all these information as much as I can”. Participants highlighted the importance for Somaliland to be prepared for the next bilateral negotiations with Ethiopia scheduled to take place in September and stressed the need for Somaliland to assess the current capacities of the corridor, prepare a draft border management agreement and a bilateral road transport agreement to safeguard the quota for Somaliland transport operators.

In addition to the training, the TAF Service Provider also held consultations in July with Somaliland’s members of the Joint Operational Committee (JOC)– the institutional body that monitors implementation of the recently concluded Bilateral Agreement for the Utilization of the Port of Berbera with Ethiopia and conducts negotiations on unresolved issues. The consultations with the JOC focused on preparing Somaliland for the upcoming negotiations with Ethiopia scheduled to take place in Fall 2016.  Finally, TAF funding permitted additional consultations with key ministers to take place to review how Somaliland can initiate discussions in trade in services with Ethiopia.

Number of ratifications of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement reaches 84

July 1st, 2016 by

On 24 June, the Republic of Moldova formally ratified the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), bringing the total number of WTO members that have ratified the TFA to 84 meaning the WTO has received over three-quarters of the ratifications needed to bring the Agreement into force.

Concluded at the WTO’s 9th Ministerial Conference (MC9) in Bali 2013, the TFA is an accord to simplify customs and other border procedures for the efficient clearance of goods for import and export and is the first multilateral trade agreement concluded since the establishment of the WTO. The agreement also contains a ground-breaking framework for special and differential treatment that ensures that implementation of the TFA provisions are dependent on developing countries’ capacity to do so.

The TFA was an important priority for many developing countries at the WTO Ministerial Conference in Bali 2013 and was a key focus of TAF advisory support to the ACP Group in the run up to MC9. A Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility (TFAF) was launched by the WTO in 2014 at the request of developing and least-developed country members to help ensure that they receive the assistance needed to reap the full benefits of the TFA and to support the ultimate goal of full implementation of the new agreement by all members. Further information on TFAF is available at www.TFAFacility.org.

According to the WTO Secretariat, implementation of the TFA has the potential to increase global merchandise exports by up to $1 trillion per annum, with developing countries capturing more than half of the available gains. More information on the WTO TFA is available on the WTO Secretariat’s webpage.

More WTO members notify preferences under the LDC Services Waiver

July 1st, 2016 by

The European Union, Brazil, India, Chile, South Africa, Thailand, Uruguay, Iceland and Liechtenstein have joined the list of WTO members who have notified preferential measures for LDCs under the WTO services waiver.

These new notifications increase the total number of WTO members that have notified their preferences under the waiver to 23 (including United States, Turkey, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Norway, Korea, China, Hong Kong, Chinese Taipei, Singapore, New Zealand, Switzerland and Japan). WTO members that have notified their preferences are now free to implement market access preferential treatment for LDC services suppliers. Once implemented, the waiver has the potential to stimulate growth and development in LDCs by allowing them to export services to other WTO member’s markets on a preferential basis.

As reported earlier, TAF has played an important role in supporting the LDC Group on the operationalisation of the services waiver by providing technical and legal advisory support, as well as research that was used by the Group in crafting their collective request.

For more information about the LDC services waiver and to access the notifications, please visit the WTO Secretariat’s webpage.

TAF Key Successes

June 8th, 2016 by

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TAF beneficiary ACWL releases report on its achievement in 2015

June 3rd, 2016 by

The Advisory Centre on WTO Law (ACWL), which receives core-funding support from TAF since July 2013, recently published its Annual Report on Operations for 2015. ACWL offers legal advice and training on WTO law, assistance in WTO dispute settlement proceedings and WTO accessions for WTO member countries. The ACWL helps to ensure that WTO Members that lack the legal capacity or resources to do so on their own are fully and equally able to participate in the WTO legal system.

The Report notes some important milestones that took place in 2015. The ACWL provided its 200th legal opinion on issues of WTO law to its developing countries and the LDCs and has now provided 2114 legal opinions since its inception in 2001. The ACWL also received four requests for assistance in WTO dispute settlement proceedings in 2015 and has now participated in 49 dispute settlement proceedings – approximately 20 per cent of all WTO disputes in that time.

Training programmes, workshops and internships have also proven successful. Four lawyers from developing countries completed the ACWL’s Secondment Programme in June 2015, bringing the total number of completed secondments to 27. In addition, ACWL continued to cooperate in the WTO’s training programs and in the series of workshops organized jointly by the WTO, the ICTSD and the ACWL.

To read access the ACWL Annual Report on Operations for 2015, please follow this link to ACWL’s website.

LDC Group Retreat – WTO Director General says LDCs remain a clear priority

April 29th, 2016 by

Between 17th and 18th April, nearly 70 WTO ambassadors, delegates and Heads of Agencies participated in a brainstorming retreat organised by the Group of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in Montreux, Switzerland with support from TAF. The event was organised by TAF at the request of H.E. Ambassador Eloi Laourou of Benin, the new Coordinator of the LDC Group, and marked the final milestone in a TAF flagship project that has supported the LDC Group in Geneva in WTO negotiations.

The event, titled ‘Reflections on MC10 Outcomes for LDCs and Advancing LDC Interests Post-Nairobi’, gave LDC Ambassadors and delegates the opportunity to reflect on the outcomes of the WTO Nairobi Ministerial Conference in December 2015, and agree on common LDC Group positions for 2016 and toward the WTO’s Eleventh Ministerial Conference in 2017.

The high-profile event raised considerable interest and was attended by the WTO Director General Mr. Roberto Azevedo; the UNCTAD Secretary General Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi; International Trade Centre (ITC) Executive Director Ms. Arancha Gonzalez; and WTO Ambassadors of the United States, Brazil, EU, China and Australia, amongst others. The WTO Director General was part of a high-level panel during which he congratulated the LDC Group on the initiative to hold the retreat and reviewed some of the next steps which would be needed to take forward the decisions on LDC issues which were taken at the Nairobi Ministerial Conference in December 2015.

H.E. Ambassador Eloi Laourou summed up the panel session by confirming the LDC Group’s interest in concrete implementation of existing WTO decisions for LDCs in agriculture, cotton, services, and DFQF as well as increased participation of donors in the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF).

The retreat was highly successful and LDC Group participants noted that the retreat was well-organized and provided rich and practical discussions that resulted in a number recommendations and negotiation positions agreed upon. To access the WTO Director General’s full keynote address during the retreat, please read this news article from the WTO Secretariat.

TAF supports Ministry of Commerce and Supplies in Nepal to develop trade negotiations strategies

April 26th, 2016 by

In January 2015, TAF started up a partnership with Ministry of Commerce & Supplies to provide practical help to Nepal in developing strategies for key external trade negotiations. Over the last few months, the focus of the TAF project has been to support an extensive program of training in thematic areas including trade in services, as well as regional and bilateral trade agreement negotiations. To date, over 60 participants from Ministries, Departments and the private sector have participated in the TAF-sponsored training sessions and received certificates from the Secretary of the Ministry of Commerce & Supplies.

The TAF-sponsored trade in services training sessions improved the participants’ understanding of the role of the service sector in the economy, the architecture of the WTO General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), schedule of services commitments, outputs from on-going negotiations in the WTO Doha Round, the SAARC Agreement on Trade in Services (SATIS) and Nepal’s negotiating position in SATIS along with the elements of sound preparation for trade in services negotiation. Practical examples and facilitation were provided to aid participants in the identification of negotiating positions.

TAF-supported training has also covered the concept of regional trading arrangements and their rationales, the provisions of South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) and the provisions of Nepal-India Trade Agreement. These training sessions helped participants to craft negotiating positions for SAFTA negotiations and Nepal-India trade negotiations. These negotiations will be held in the next few months of 2016 and so TAF support has been timely for Nepal in the review and discussion of the negotiating agenda and proposed strategies.

 

TAF support ACP Group Brainstorming meeting in Geneva

March 31st, 2016 by

On 26th February, more than 40 Ambassadors and delegates from African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries participated in a Brainstorming meeting in Geneva, Switzerland. The event was part of a wider TAF project that supports the ACP Group in Geneva in WTO negotiations and was organised in close collaboration with the ACP Coordinator and the ACP Secretariat Geneva Office.

The meeting gave participants the opportunity to takes stock of the outcomes of the WTO Tenth Ministerial Conference (MC10) held in Nairobi in December 2015. ACP Ambassadors and delegates also agreed on priorities for the ACP Group to take in advancing the WTO negotiations on the Doha Development Agenda (DDA), building on the decisions and Ministerial declaration adopted during MC10.

Fund Manager hosts 3rd TAF Advisory Event in Sutton, UK

March 23rd, 2016 by

From 8-9 March, 26 delegates from TAF partner countries, along with DFID and TAF Fund Manager staff gathered at St. Nicholas House in Sutton to take part in the 3rd and final TAF Advisory Event. Participants came from across the globe, from as far away as the Solomon Islands, Afghanistan and Lesotho to talk about their experiences with TAF support, share information, network and provide input into the lessons learning efforts of the Fund Manager. The two-day event also allowed staff from DFID-BIS Trade Policy Unit to get direct feedback from TAF grant holders on the programme. The session built on the successes of prior TAF Advisory events held by the Fund Manager in 2012 and 2014.

Day one of the event focused on reviewing key successes and challenges during TAF’s implementation. In panel discussions, plenary sessions and break out groups, the participants highlighted the ways in which TAF support has worked well, while also identifying some challenges and limitations. The flexibility and demand-led nature of the fund, as well as the generally high standard of technical assistance provided by TAF Service Providers were lauded as key positives of TAF. Delegates also shared that sometimes the long-term sustainability of TAF support can be hard to ensure or measure given that there is often staff turn-over on side of the TAF partner organization. Moreover, participants noted that the iterative, fluid and long-term nature of trade negotiations can make defining success difficult if support interventions are short-term.

On the second day of the event, discussions focused on future trends in trade negotiations, and what might be areas of needed potential assistance in trade negotiation support. The final session of day two had participants split into teams to debate whether and how the current international trade architecture is responsive to the unique needs of low- income developing countries and LDCs. Overall, the feedback on the event has been uniformly positive, with participants rating the content, facilitation and event organisation strongly. As one participant commented “the event was well-organised and the lessons learnt will be useful in my future work”.

 

Negotiations on the Africa Continental Free Trade Area commence in Addis

February 26th, 2016 by

The African Union Commission convened the inaugural Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) Negotiation Forum meeting on 22-26 February 2016. The CFTA Negotiation Forum brought together Senior Officials from more than 35 AU Member States, including delegations from South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria and Egypt. The programme for the week was broken down into two parts, with the first two days focusing on capacity building, and the final four days allocated for the substantive technical negotiations.

Over the first two days, experts funded by TAF, as well as the from the UNECA African Trade Policy Centre and UNCTAD, who also have been supporting the CFTA process, provided sessions to brief the negotiators on the latest thinking on various aspects of the CFTA negotiations. The agenda for the closed negotiation sessions of the first Negotiation Forum meeting was due to discuss the rules and procedures of the CFTA negotiations, the work plan of the negotiations as well as the Terms of References for the Technical Working Groups.

Since 2014, TAF has been working closely with the AUC’s Department of Trade and Industry to support the preparatory phase of the CFTA negotiations. On 18-19 February 2016, a cross-departmental meeting was organised by AUC-DTI and supported by TAF and the Centre for Trade Policy and Law from Carleton University to discuss the preparations of the negotiation meeting the following week. The preparatory workshop included a series of simulation exercises combined with more reflective sessions. The workshop was designed to be highly interactive, providing AUC-DTI officials with hands-on experience in how to prepare for, organise and conduct the upcoming Negotiation Forum meeting.

TAF supports Government of Somaliland in key trade talks with neighbouring Ethiopia

February 24th, 2016 by

Since 2013, TAF has been provided advisory support to the Government of Somaliland (GoSL); the key focus has been to aid the Government in its bilateral negotiations with key strategic trading partner neighbour Ethiopia. To this end, recent TAF work has been concentrated on helping the Government develop a draft Trade and Transit Agreement to negotiate with Ethiopia and which would build on an earlier 2005 Transit agreement.

TAF has funded capacity development sessions with GoSL staff to help them gain the skills to better understand trade policy development, both in the regional and global context, and gain advocacy skills for use in talks with Ethiopia. The initial training session in December 2015 centred on Trade in Services and why this is important to Somaliland’s economic growth and included simulation activities which allowed the 16 participants gain experience in negotiating mock agreements. Further trainings in February 2016 addressed Trade, Transit & Trade Facilitation processes, and included sessions on how Somaliland can address barriers to transport through regional and international instruments; 18 GoSL officials attended these sessions. A three-person Somaliland delegation participated in the WTO 10th Ministerial Conference in Nairobi with TAF support, receiving coaching and support over the course of the meetings and gaining deeper insight into the WTO and the accession process. TAF funding has also enabled the development of several pieces of analytical work for the Somaliland government, including an assessment of the impact on Somaliland of implementing a revised transit and trade agreement.

Ethiopia and Somaliland are expected to resume negotiations over the draft Trade & Transit Agreement imminently, using the draft agreement developed with TAF support as a basis for talks. TAF support in Somaliland is provided via World Trade Institute Advisors (WTIA).

WTO Ministerial Conference in Nairobi delivers outcomes for TAF-supported developing country groups and negotiators

January 29th, 2016 by

As reported earlier, TAF actively supported the ACP, Africa and LDC Groups in the run-up to and during the negotiations for the Tenth WTO Ministerial Conference (MC10) held in Nairobi 15-18 December 2015. MC10 resulted in the successful conclusion of a ministerial declaration and other decisions that mark achievements for the three negotiation groups supported by TAF. The TAF advisory support to the coordinators – Barbados, Bangladesh and Lesotho – and the focal points of these groups played an important role in both reaching consensus within these groups and advancing common positions in the MC10 negotiations.

The decision on export competition reached at MC10 was an achievement for the ACP Group who has advocated the elimination of all forms of export subsidies in the MC10 negotiations. The decision reached in Nairobi partly reflects the ACP Group’s official submission to the WTO on elements for a post-Bali work programme, submitted in July 2015, which the TAF-funded adviser assisted the ACP Group coordinator and focal point on agriculture in crafting.

The LDC Group obtained a series of decisions that cover issues prioritised by the group in the MC10 negotiations. Three LDC specific decisions were reached during MC10: preferential rules of origin, the services waiver and cotton. The ministerial decision on the services waiver recognises the LDC Group’s collective request and calls for WTO members to improve the content of notifications of preferential treatment to reflect more precisely the collective request.

The decision on cotton represents an achievement for the ACP, Africa and LDC Groups and states that developed countries shall grant duty‑free and quota‑free market access for least developed country cotton exports, from 1 January 2016 onwards, and to immediately eliminate their export subsidies for LDC exporters of cotton products.

To read more about the agreements concluded at MC10, please read this article from the WTO Secretariat.

Advisory Event on lessons learned from 5 years of TAF

January 29th, 2016 by

The TAF Fund Manager will hold an Advisory Event in Sutton, UK on 8th-9th March 2016. The two-day event will be attended by up to 25 participants, the majority of which will be TAF partners and beneficiaries. Representatives from the TAF Fund Manager Team and DFID will also attend the event.

The purpose of the Advisory Event is to bring together TAF partners to discuss emerging results, identify challenges and constraints faced during programme delivery and lessons learnt. It also aims to identify new trade negotiation priorities and ways of improving future support in this area. The main topics will be covered include:

  • Lessons Learnt and Emerging Results: based on TAF implementation to date, what has been achieved and how? What has worked well, less well? What could be done differently to achieve more and better results?
  • Constraints, Challenges and Ingredients for Success: what has constrained progress on projects and trade negotiations and what contextual factors influence and shape success? What are the key ingredients for successful TAF interventions?
  • Rationale and Emerging Priorities: is there a continuing rationale for TAF support? What are the future priorities in terms of trade negotiations and potential areas for donor support?

This is the third Advisory Event organised by TAF. The first, held in April-May 2012, focused on reviewing the landscape for trade negotiations in light of the lack of progress in the WTO negotiations and potential implications for TAF. The second event, held in July 2014, focussed on knowledge sharing and on identifying potential actions for TAF partners to make faster progress on targeted issues and negotiations.

TAF project on trade in services delivers regional workshop in Sri Lanka

December 16th, 2015 by

As part its on-going support on trade in services, TAF recently delivered a regional training workshop for the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) region. The workshop, titled “Enhancing Capacities for Trade in Services Policymaking and Negotiations” was held in Colombo, Sri Lanka between 17 and 20 November 2015 with the aim of contributing to the increased and more effective participation of developing countries and their associated Regional Economic Communities in multilateral, regional and bilateral services trade negotiations.

Representatives from Sri Lanka, India, Nepal and Bangladesh participated in the workshop, comprising a mix of government, private sector and civil society stakeholders. The workshop centered around three themes: the collection and use of services trade statistics, institutional mechanisms for services-related decision-making and improving competitiveness in the services sector.

The workshop was delivered by International Lawyers and Economists Against Poverty (ILEAP), CUTS International Geneva and the Centre for the Analysis of Regional Integration at Sussex (CARIS), who are managing the trade in services support for TAF, alongside the Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka (IPS). A second regional workshop for the countries in the East African Community will be delivered in Nairobi, Kenya at the end of January 2016.

To read more about the workshop in Colombo, please read this article in the Sri Lanka Daily Mirror. To access the case studies, toolkits and training material developed under TAF’s trade in services project, please visit www.tradeinservices.net and follow the link “Project Outcomes”.

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TAF Projects (December 2013)
Country or Region Grant Title

Implementation Status

Afghanistan Advisory Mission to Afghanistan

Completed

COMESA Advisory Mission to the East and Southern Africa (ESA) Group

Completed

EAC Advisory Mission to the EAC

Completed

Ethiopia Advisory Mission to Ethiopia

Completed

Global Feasibility Study for Advisory Centre on Regional Trade Agreements (ACORTA)

Completed

Global TAF Advisory Event 1

Completed

Lao PDR Advisory Mission to Lao PDR

Completed

Lesotho Advisory Mission to Lesotho

Completed

Malawi Advisory Mission to Malawi

Completed

Multi-Region Advisory Mission to  the AUC

Completed

Nepal Advisory Mission to Nepal

Completed

PIFS Support to Pacific ACP States in EPA negotiations

Completed

Samoa Logistical Support

Completed

Sierra Leone Advisory Mission to Sierra Leone

Completed

Solomon Islands Advisory Mission to the Solomon Islands

Completed

Sri Lanka Advisory Mission to Sri Lanka

Completed

Uganda Advisory Mission to Uganda

Completed

Vanuatu Advisory Mission to Vanuatu

Completed

ACP Call-down Support to the ACP Group in Geneva

Ongoing

Afghanistan Trade Negotiation Training and Capacity Building Support to Ministry of Commerce and Industry

Ongoing

EAC TradeSift Training for EAC Tripartite FTA Negotiations

Ongoing

ECOWAS Trade Capacity Building Programme

Ongoing

ECOWAS WTO Law Advisory Services and Capacity Building

Ongoing

Global Channel 2: Training on WTO Law and Dispute Settlement – ACWL

Ongoing

Global Channel 2: Training on WTO Law and Dispute Settlement – Trapca

Ongoing

Global TAF Advisory Publications/Toolkits

Ongoing

LDC Group Support to LDC Services Waiver

Ongoing

Nigeria Support to Nigeria Ministry of Trade and Investment

Ongoing

PIFS Support to the Pacific ACP States in EPA negotiations

Ongoing

OCTA Support for PACER Plus Negotiations

Ongoing

Solomon Islands Strengthening Trade Negotiation Capacity of Solomon Islands

Ongoing

The Gambia Support to the Ministry of Trade

Ongoing

TMSA Support to Tripartite FTA negotiations

Ongoing

Vanuatu Trade Negotiations Support

Ongoing

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