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AITIC is an intergovernmental organisation (IGO), based in Geneva. Its goal
is to assist less-advantaged countries (LACs) to have more effective trade-led
growth through personalised assistance and capacity-building programmes. AITIC
provides the LACs (i.e. resource-constrained developing countries and economies
in transition, with a priority to the least-developed countries) with
information and policy advice to help them integrate into the multilateral
trading system and the work of the WTO and other international trade-related
organisations in Geneva. This assistance contributes to a more effective trade
policy and to the strengthening of LACs capacity to trade.
AITIC has a mandate to:
assist less-advantaged countries (LACs) to have more effective trade-led growth through personalised assistance and capacity-building programmes;
assist LACs’ participation in WTO negotiations and in the work of other international trade-related organisations;
help LACs to become more active in the multilateral trading system and conduct more effective trade policies;
strengthen the operational capacity of LAC trade delegations in Geneva and of non-residents located in their capitals, in Brussels or in other European cities.
Less-advantaged countries (LACs)
This AITIC term is used to describe those countries which have not traditionally played a very active part in the multilateral trading system and face structural as well as institutional limitations in the field of international trade. It encompasses:
the 50 least-developed countries (LDCs), as defined by the United Nations;
low- and middle-income developing countries;
small vulnerable economies;
small island states;
landlocked developing countries;
low-income economies in transition.
AITIC provides assistance through the following activities:
personalised assistance to delegates by offering specific information, analyses, and policy advice to help them integrate into the multilateral trading system and the work of the WTO and to strengthen their trading capacity;
help with establishing appropriate contacts in relevant organisations;
provision of a neutral and informal forum for countries to discuss common trade interests;
publication of Background Notes, Information Briefs and Situation Reports, available in English, French and Spanish (the three working languages of the WTO), on topics on which delegates require precise up-to-date information;
organisation of seminars and brainstorming meetings, sometimes in collaboration and with the support of other institutions, on topics of prime interest to delegates;
regular informal meetings on current trade-related issues and areas of specific interest and concern to LACs;
targeted substantive and logistical support to countries without permanent missions in Geneva through the AITIC Non-Residents’ Unit;
the Glossary of Commonly Used International Trade Terminology with Particular Reference to the WTO isa multilingual lexicon of international trade terminology, providing definitions and their equivalents in the three official languages of the WTO;
the Official Fellowship Programme enables government officials of Participating Members to spend from three to six months in Geneva to monitor closely the activities of the WTO, to work on projects relevant for their governments and to build up their network of contacts in the field of international trade so that when they return to capital, they will contribute to a closer relation between their mission in Geneva and the relevant national authorities.
The AITIC Non-Residents’ Unit for Members and Observers of the WTO (NRU)
Aware that LACs without permanent missions in Geneva are increasingly marginalised from the multilateral trading system and need more sustained assistance, AITIC created in October 2000 a specifically dedicated facility to perform the following functions:
serve as a contact point between the WTO and LACs without representation in Geneva, summarising and disseminating key documents;
monitor discussions at the WTO relating to non-resident LACs and inform the latter of activities and decisions taken at the WTO;
respond swiftly to questions from officials handling trade policy issues in LAC capitals;
provide logistical support (offices, computers, secretarial services) to non-resident LAC delegates visiting Geneva or working to establish a permanent mission;
offer support to the secretariats of non-resident regional organisations.
The AITIC Glossary
In 2003, AITIC launched the first issue of the Glossary of Commonly Used International Trade Terminology with Particular Reference to the WTO. This is a multilingual lexicon of international trade terminology providing definitions of the technical as well as the informal terms most commonly used by international trade practitioners and delegates in Geneva, together with their equivalents in the three official languages of the WTO. This innovative and unique AITIC tool has facilitated the understanding of a technical jargon which may appear rather obscure to the uninitiated. The Glossary is regularly updated and is available in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian and Macedonian.
Collaboration with other institutions
AITIC regularly collaborates with other international organisations in staging its seminars and meetings. For example, it has co-organised several seminars with the WTO, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the International Trade Centre (ITC), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO);
AITIC has observer status in UNCTAD, the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s Conference on the WTO and the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC);
AITIC has signed a number of Memoranda of Understanding with its international partners, UNCTAD, the OECS (Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States) and the ILI (International Law Institute) to enable a closer and more active collaboration;
AITIC also has a close working relationship with other institutions, such as the Commonwealth Secretariat, the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States, the OECS, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the Agence intergouvernementale de la Francophonie, as well as with academic institutions and the private sector;
AITIC’s collaboration with the Graduate Institute of International Studies (HEI) and other academic institutions world-wide enables the Agency to offer a range of internships to university graduates seeking hands-on experience of international trade.
AITIC’s goal is to help LACs to have a more effective trade policy and benefit from the globalisation process and the multilateral trading system.
The best indicator of AITIC’s results is the constant progress achieved by its Members in reaching essential objectives such as reducing trade barriers, poverty alleviation and improved capacity to integrate into the multilateral trading system. Progress is illustrated through the following examples:
Three of the “Cotton Four” which joined forces to reduce trade barriers affecting cotton are AITIC Members, Benin, Chad and Mali;
The Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative: 80 percent of those countries having prepared Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers in 2005 were AITIC Members;
The AITIC Non-Residents’ Unit (NRU): five AITIC Participating Members have set up permanent missions in Geneva since the NRU was established (Barbados, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Chad and Mali). The NRU has also helped other Members to establish permanent missions in Geneva (Macao, Namibia and Uzbekistan). Two regional organisations, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and the OECS Technical Bureau were guests of AITIC’s NRU while in the process of establishing their permanent offices in Geneva.
The AITIC team
is led by Dr. Esperanza Durán who has extensive experience in the field of international trade and development;
includes international trade specialists, translators and administrative staff;
calls upon experts and international consultants when required.
The website www.aitic.org provides rapid access to the latest information on international trade and development. Continually updated, visually attractive and easy to navigate, it is an invaluable tool for those interested in trade-related issues, development and the WTO.
What www.aitic.org contains
• AITIC’s resources and tools:
Activities: AITIC provides information on the seminars and meetings it organises on topics concerned with trade and which are of particular interest to LACs.
Documents: Background Notes and Information Briefs on the main trade issues are available online, as well as Situation Reports on the latest developments at the WTO and Reports of meetings organised by AITIC independently or in collaboration with other organisations such as the WTO, UNCTAD and the ITC. Portraits are also available, which present personal views on trade and development from those dealing with trade-related issues on a day to day basis, whether working for missions from developed or developing countries, or for international organisations in Geneva.
The Non-Residents’ Unit: information on the services provided by AITIC to the members and observers of the WTO without permanent representation in Geneva.
New ambassadors recently assigned to the WTO: a regularly updated list of the changes in Heads of Delegations.
Aid for Trade Page: provides information, including related meetings, documents, chronology and a glossary related to this initiative.
Meet the Chairs: a series of filmed interviews conducted by AITIC’s Executive Director with the Chairpersons of various WTO bodies.
The development of AITIC: the development and transformation of AITIC into an intergovernmental organisation.
Collaboration with other organisations: an update of the joint activities and projects AITIC is pursuing with other institutions.
• The AITIC Trade Portal:
A portal providing access to international trade law and policies. This part of the www.aitic.org site provides more rapid access to information relating to the various trade issues being dealt with at the WTO, together with the legal texts and conventions, country profiles, new sources of information, statistics and other reference tools.