Members welcomed the draft Aid for Trade work programme for 2020-2021, entitled “Empowering Connected, Sustainable Trade”, tabled by the chair, Ambassador Chad Blackman of Barbados. He invited delegations to help finalize the biennial work plan, with the objective of agreeing to it ahead of the General Council's next meeting on 3 March.
Aid for Trade is a multi-stakeholder initiative seeking to mobilize resources to address the trade-related and supply-side constraints identified by developing countries and least-developed countries (LDCs). More information can be found here.
Several WTO members reported on their AfT activities. The Russian Federation briefed delegations on the Russia-Africa Summit, which took place in October 2019 in Sochi, Russia, at which USD 20 billion worth of business contracts were signed. China reported on the first China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo held on 18-20 June 2019 in Changsha, China, highlighting its commitment to expand investment in Africa and reiterating its support for LDCs.
The United Kingdom reiterated its support for the AfT initiative and the funding it provides to various AfT mechanisms. This was the UK's first intervention in the Committee since communicating to WTO members its withdrawal from the EU. The UK also highlighted outcomes of the UK Africa Investment Summit and its hosting of the UN Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC COP 26) scheduled to take place from 9 to 19 November.
Lao PDR and Peru provided overviews of how AfT has helped support trade opening recorded in their recent Trade Policy Reviews. Jamaica highlighted the Micro Investment Development Agency, through which JMD 620 million (USD 4.4 million) was raised to promote job creation in the micro enterprise sector.
Updates by the Enhanced Integrated Framework, the Standards and Trade Development Facility and the International Trade Centre on Aid for Trade activities were warmly welcomed by members.
An Aid for Trade workshop held on the margins of the committee meeting explored the role Aid for Trade can play in transforming and promoting the rural economy, which involves over half of the world's population. The discussion focused on rural development and transformation, a theme that emerged as a priority for developing countries and financing partners in the 2019 WTO-led Aid for Trade Monitoring and Evaluation Exercise.
Key points emerging from the workshop included the central role of agriculture in the rural economy and the need for governments to focus policy on productivity growth and enhancing the direct impact of agriculture and rural development on poverty reduction. The workshop also underlined the essential role of public policies, notably in helping farmers connect to global and regional value chains, and the importance of services that women entrepreneurs and farmers provide to the rural economy.
Farmers' integration into value chains is hampered by demanding quality and safety standards, said Iris Krebber, Head of the Agriculture and Land Team at the UK's Department for International Development.
Recalling Asia's experience of rural development since the 1970s, Takashi Yamano, Senior Economist at the Asian Development Bank, highlighted the importance of public policy and productivity growth in agriculture. His call for public policies that promote well-functioning markets was echoed by Madhur Gautam, Lead Economist at the World Bank. Mr Gautam said there is scope for promoting productivity growth in agriculture if public policy is appropriately tailored to promoting the adoption of new technologies and if market failures are addressed — a task made more pressing by the need to adapt to climate change.
Magor Mbaye from the WTO's Permanent Mission of Senegal explained how Senegal is seeking to unlock value in its agricultural and rural economy through the government's Plan for Emerging Senegal.
The critical role that women play in the rural economy was underlined by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. It stressed, in particular, the role of cotton-by-products in promoting rural development and agri-processing in eastern and southern Africa.
Women's economic empowerment is central to the Enhanced Integrated Framework's programme, said the agency's Deputy Executive Director, Annette Ssemuwemba, who shared several successes of the programme in rural development. said that
The scope of tourism in boosting non-farm rural incomes was also highlighted, together with ongoing work at the WTO to reform agricultural trade policy.