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AITIC is an intergovernmental organisation, based in Geneva, whose goal is to help less-advantaged countries (LACs) to benefit from the globalisation process in general and the multilateral trading system in particular by assisting them in taking a more active part in the work of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and other trade-related organisations in Geneva, as well as the negotiations under the auspices of the former.
For the delegates in Geneva of the less-advantaged countries. The LACs are those countries which have not had a traditionally active participation in the multilateral trading system. These countries face structural and institutional constraints as regards international trade. The LACs include the 50 least-developed countries (LDCs), as defined by the United Nations, several low- and middle-income developing countries, and several economies in transition. Most of these countries have small missions and not enough human resources to be able to closely monitor the work of the trade-related organisations in Geneva. Consequently, their participation and voice in these organisations has been weak.
Delegates in Geneva (or neighbouring capitals) who need personalised assistance on trade-related issues; who seek specific information on subjects of interest to them; or who would like to discuss their trade interests, concerns and needs with like-minded partners in an informal way. Through personalised services, AITIC can enable diplomats to become familiar with relevant trade issues.
Within the framework of the establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva, the Swiss government decided to finance a programme to strengthen the capacity of less-advantaged country missions in Geneva and neighbouring capitals to lead a more effective trade diplomacy. This project is part of Switzerland's assistance policy to developing countries and economies in transition in the field of trade.
This agency was set up by the Federal Office of External Economic Affairs (OFAEE), transformed today into the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs of the Swiss Federal Administration. At present it is financed by seven donors (Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Sweden and Switzerland). Other governments and aid agencies, interested in exploring original and effective ways of promoting the participation of the less-advantaged countries in the international trading system, and forestalling their growing marginalisation, are prospective associates.
Although there are other larger, well-established trade-related organisations seeking to promote the integration of developing countries in the international trading system, AITIC has established a niche in catering for the delegates present in Geneva and neighbouring capitals. These delegates, who are at the forefront of the international trade battlefield, need prompt and efficient responses to their individual needs. This kind of assistance, however, is difficult to obtain from large organisations, with well-established long-term programmes. As a small, flexible, non-bureaucratic agency, AITIC reaches the parts that other trade-related organisations cannot reach.
The agency offers Briefing Notes on trade-related subjects on which delegates need concise and up-to-date information (e.g. ministerial meetings, electronic commerce, rules of origin, textiles, customs valuation, etc.). It organises workshops and training seminars on issues which are of prime interest to delegates and on which forthcoming negotiations are to take place. AITIC has already organised (sometimes with the collaboration and support from other institutions) several seminars on subjects of interest to the LACs and from their perspective, such as agriculture, textiles, electronic commerce, or the WTO's dispute settlement mechanism. In addition, AITIC holds regular informal meetings more targeted to participants with particular interests, e.g. the economies in transition on the eve of the Third Ministerial Conference in Seattle, or the difficulties faced by the least-developed countries in their process of accession to the WTO. Specifically, what is the kind of personalised assistance AITIC can provide?
AITIC is directed by Dr. Esperanza Durán, who has extensive experience in the field of international trade and development. She holds an M.A. and a D. Phil. from Stanford University and St. Antony's College, Oxford, respectively. In addition to her research and teaching (in particular at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) in London and the London School of Economics; at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), in Washington, D.C., and El Colegio de México, in Mexico City), she has held posts of responsibility in intergovernmental and international organisations, such as Senior Economist at the International Monetary Fund and the World Gold Council and economist and country officer at the World Bank. She has also been a consultant for UNCTAD, SELA, ICVA and a speaker and chair person at international academic and business conferences including: Wilton Park, Ditchley Park, Aspen Institute, International Herald Tribune, Oxford Analytica, CBI, etc.