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Aid For Trade: Facilitating Development through Trade in the Caribbean

Member states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) gathered to assess how Aid for Trade (AfT) can facilitate the development of the small vulnerable economies of CARICOM. During an event sponsored by the CARICOM Secretariat, the World Trade Organization (WTO), and supported by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

Member states, representatives of international and regional organizations and the private sector gathered to identify priorities and needs for AfT, and to prepare for the 3rd WTO Global Review on Aid for Trade, to be held from 18-19 July 2011, using case stories and questionnaires to evaluate the outcomes and impact of the initiative.

Aid for Trade can assist developing countries to increase exports of goods and services, to integrate into the multilateral trading system, and to benefit from liberalized trade and increased market access. The WTO has been the global coordinator of the AfT initiative since it was launched at the WTO Ministerial Conference in 2005. The Integration and Trade Sector of the IDB has been a key partner in this initiative at the global, regional, and national level through its programmatic and technical assistance activities.

The welcome address was delivered by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Barbados, the Hon Maxine McClean, who reiterated the importance of AfT to the Small and Vulnerable Economies in the region and encouraged the international community to make grant funding available for the many highly indebted countries in the region.

During his opening remarks, the Assistant Secretary-General of the CARICOM Secretariat, Ambassador Irwin Larocque, said that CARICOM Heads of Government had decided on a “focused approach” for a Regional Aid For Trade strategy, identifying key priorities as Maritime Transport; Information and Communication Technologies; Trade Facilitation; Implementation of External Trade Agreements; Trade in Services; Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures; and the development of an Infrastructure Fund. Focusing on these pillars will boost competitiveness, ensure the swifter delivery of exports, and re-engineer the region’s productive capacity.

The ambassador thanked the WTO for its continued leadership in the initiative and the support offered by the Director-General Pascal Lamy. He also spoke to the excellent partnership enjoyed with the IDB in seeking to advance work on the Regional Strategy, strengthening the capacity of the Secretariat to manage and monitor the AfT agenda, and assisting Member States in their national initiatives.

The Director of the Development Division at the WTO, Shishir Priyadarshi, prepared the groundwork for the upcoming 3rd Global Review and urged Member States to submit the case stories and complete the questionnaires to showcase how AfT was working, or could work better, for the Caribbean.

The governments of Belize and Jamaica also shared their experiences in drafting their IDB-supported National Aid For Trade Strategies which aim to articulate country priorities, create a pipeline of projects, and develop a mechanism for monitoring and evaluation.

The Barbados event follows closely on the launch of the Belize’s Aid For Trade Strategy, supported by the IDB Integration and Trade Sector and the WTO, which was developed both in the context of the WTO Trade Policy Review and as a tool for engaging donors and investors.  The Strategy was developed by the IDB Integration and Trade Sector and is being widely initiated and implemented across the Caribbean.

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