Members Preparing for Third Global Review of Aid for Trade

22 December 2010

WTO members last week looked at efforts to lay the groundwork for next year's planned examination of ongoing efforts to use trade-related development assistance to boost poor countries' ability to participate in international commerce.

The third ‘global review' of the WTO's aid-for-trade initiative is scheduled to take place in July 2011. According to the WTO secretariat, the purpose of these global reviews is to put a spotlight on aid-for-trade projects, both to improve monitoring and evaluation and to encourage both donors and recipients to step up work and make projects more effective. At a 7 December meeting of the WTO Committee on Trade and Development, members took stock of work being done to prepare for the high-profile meeting.

Matthew Wilson, a senior WTO secretariat official working on aid-for-trade, wrote recently in Trade Negotiations Insights, a sister publication of Bridges, that the goal of the third global review is to set in motion a process that can eventually answer the question: "Is aid for trade working?"

To help governments do this, the WTO and the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, which earlier developed a framework for the monitoring and evaluation of aid-for-trade efforts, have developed a series of detailed questionnaires for donors and recipients. In the questionnaires, are asked about things such as recent and upcoming changes in their policy strategies; how they define success; and the challenges they face in evaluating trade-related development cooperation, for instance in setting quantifiable targets or gathering data. They are also asked a variety of questions about the quality of donor-recipient dialogue; improvements in the alignment of aid-for-trade spending with national, regional, or multilateral priorities; and examples of best practice.

At the CTD meeting, Director-General Pascal Lamy urged members to provide input to the preparations for the review before the end of January 2011, pointing to the WTO/OECD questionnaires and a call for case stories about aid-for-trade projects. He noted  that the Group of 20 leading economies pledged in November to maintain aid-for-trade spending at pre-crisis levels beyond 2011.

Secretariat officials described training events that were either planned or had already taken place in every developing country region to help members prepare for the aid-for-trade review.

Sources report that so far, the WTO secretariat has received only three case stories and one questionnaire. However, a number of donors, including Norway, Australia, and Canada, promised to submit case stories by the end-January deadline. Recipient countries, academic institutions and civil society groups are also expected to submit case stories.

The CTD meeting also saw members report on preparations for a major UN conference on least-developed countries (LDC-IV)  scheduled to take place in Istanbul in May.  The LDC group at the WTO has called for making aid-for-trade a major part of the plan of action to be adopted there.

ICTSD reporting.

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