WTO Members Discuss Contributions to Aid for Trade, Approve Stocktaking event on COVID-19 Impact

At a meeting of the Committee on Trade and Development on 5 October dedicated to the WTO-led Aid for Trade initiative, several members provided updates on how their recent activities and contributions have helped developing countries play a more active role in world trade. Discussions also focused on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the implications for the Aid for Trade work programme for 2020-22, with members agreeing to hold a “stocktaking” event in 2021 to discuss further.

The European Union highlighted that a full account of its activities under the Aid for Trade initiative can be found in the recently published “EU Aid for Trade progress report 2020”. India underlined its commitment to facilitate market access for least developed countries (LDCs), noting that these countries enjoy duty-free access for more than 96% of their tariff lines. Korea stressed its support for Aid for Trade activities through its foreign aid disbursements and contributions to the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), a multilateral partnership dedicated to helping LDCs use trade as an engine for growth. Korea also pointed to its assistance to the agriculture sector and its support for women's economic empowerment.

China highlighted that the upcoming China International Import Expo, taking place in Shanghai on 5-10 November 2020, will help small and medium-sized enterprises from developing countries gain access to the Chinese market. Japan shared information on its recent Aid for Trade work, underlining its contribution of approximately USD 13 billion in 2018-19.

In addition, WTO members received updates from international financial institutions on their resource mobilization and activities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Asian Development Bank, the African Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank provided reports.

The Enhanced Integrated Framework reported on its recent survey, which revealed that most LDCs have seen improvements for key health and economic indicators. The Standards and Trade Development Facility, a global partnership aiming to facilitate safe trade in developing countries, highlighted its role in supporting the transition to paperless monitoring of sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures. It said this could improve traceability in supply chains, reduce food wastage, cut trade times and costs, and build trust among trading partners.

The newly appointed Executive Director of the International Trade Centre (ITC), Ms Pamela Coke Hamilton, addressed the Committee. She highlighted the importance of trade in reinvigorating the global economy. The priorities she identified for Aid for Trade included boosting digital access, promoting green value chains and resilience to climate change and supporting regional integration. These activities would have a positive impact on micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) and support economic recovery from COVID-19, she said.

Members approved a proposal from the Committee Chair Ambassador Mohammad Qurban Haqjo of Afghanistan as to how to reflect the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Aid for Trade work programme for 2020-22. A stocktaking event will be organized in early 2021 to examine trade and development challenges arising due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related response, recovery and future resilience measures.

Aid for Trade is a multi-stakeholder initiative seeking to mobilize resources to address the trade-related needs and supply-side constraints identified by developing countries and least-developed countries.