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The AITIC Non-Residents' Unit for Members and Observers of the WTO
The purpose of this AITIC brochure is to introduce its Non-Residents' Unit, created in October 2000 with the purpose of developing assistance targeted at members and observers of the WTO lacking the necessary means to establish and maintain permanent trade representation in Geneva.
AITIC was created in 1998 by the Swiss government in order to assist the less-advantaged countries (LACs) to benefit from the multilateral trading system, in particular by helping them to participate more actively in the work and negotiating activities of the WTO and other international trade-related organisations based in Geneva, especially UNCTAD and the ITC. The LACs are the 50 least-developed countries as defined by the United Nations, some low income developing countries and some economies in transition. These countries face structural and institutional constraints and have not been active in the multilateral trading system.
AITIC provides three main types of assistance to LACs. First it prepares Background Notes on key WTO issues. Second it organises training workshops on topics about which delegates from these countries wish to be better informed. Finally, it provides free and continuous personalised assistance to officials from LACs who are involved in WTO activities and negotiate on a day-to-day basis. The latter is probably the most original aspect of the support provided by AITIC: LACs' needs differ, sometimes markedly, and thus assistance ought to be tailored to the specific beneficiary and its particular interests.
From its inception, AITIC has been keenly aware of the fact that some delegates from LACs are peripheral to the multilateral trading system and therefore need more sustained assistance. At present, 28 of the 149 members (of which 20 are members and 8 are observers) of the WTO do not have a permanent Mission in Geneva. The officials from these countries trying to monitor WTO issues are therefore at a significant disadvantage in terms of access to information and their ability to influence the decision-making process.
After twenty months of constant work with the non-residents, AITIC became aware of their pressing needs. To contribute to enhancing their presence in Geneva, AITIC decided to establish a permanent facility to cater for their specific requirements. In consequence, and with the assistance of the Swiss authorities, it established a Non-Residents' Unit in October 2000.
The salient features of the AITIC Non-Residents' Unit are described in this brochure.
In the post-Doha period and in view of the new negotiations of the Doha Work Programme, the needs of the non-residents have become more acute. In this connection, AITIC's different forms of assistance to the non-residents will keep the negotiating priorities at the centre of its various functions and activities of the Non-Residents' Unit, which are as follows:
From June 2002 to July 2005, AITIC was bringing out the Early Warning System (EWS) for the non-resident members and observers of the WTO. The EWS was one of the fundamental operational mechanisms of the Non-Residents’ Unit. The concept had emerged from informal discussions with the representatives of the non-residents and covered the following points: determining the key external trade sector(s) for each non-resident; monitoring from Geneva the WTO meetings relating to these sectors; keeping non-residents informed prior to and following each meeting; advising non-residents as early as possible of the orientation of WTO discussions directly related to these key sectors, to enable the former to intervene before critical decisions are taken in their absence; facilitating the presence of representatives from non-residents at WTO meetings of importance to them.
However, since similar information is now made available by WTO in its Non-Resident Newsletter as Tentative Programme and Details of the WTO Meetings, AITIC ceased the publication of the EWS from July 2005. The decision was reached by AITIC Members to avoid duplication of efforts. Suggestions and views on the discontinuation of AITIC’s EWS are welcome.
The partners of the Non-Residents' Unit are clearly identified and of two types:
Collaboration with other organisations
In 2002, AITIC formalised its collaboration with UNCTAD and the Agence intergouvernementale de la Francophonie (AIF). A Memorandum of Understanding with UNCTAD was signed to support the trade negotiating capacity of the developing countries and economies in transition, particularly the least-developed and those that are not represented in Geneva. With the AIF a Memorandum of Agreement was concluded through which the AIF would finance a Francophone international trade expert to assist the non-resident LDCs and to finance part of AITIC's translation activities.
Following the signature of the AITIC Initiative on Trade Related Capacity Building and Greater Participation in the International Trading System at the WTO's Doha Ministerial Conference, alternative approaches to funding are currently being investigated. The Initiative set up a Task Force to explore the feasibility of transforming AITIC into an intergovernmental organisation.