TRTA: TRADE-RELATED TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE
WTO technical assistance and training
The WTO’s trade-related technical assistance (TRTA) activities aim to help developing countries build their trade capacity so that they can participate more effectively in global trade.
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Technical assistance activities aim to help developing countries take full advantage of the multilateral trading system. Within the WTO Secretariat, these activities are coordinated by the Institute for Training and Technical Cooperation (ITTC), based on technical assistance and training plans. The Committee on Trade and Development regularly oversees all TRTA activities.
The WTO's technical assistance and training plans contain detailed information on all of the WTO Secretariat's TA “products” as well as on individual activities. The WTO responds to specific national and regional needs in line with its Progressive Learning Strategy, which provides graduated levels of training to course participants. A results-based management approach is used to monitor and evaluate these activities and to further develop the assistance provided.
The changing needs of WTO members continue to determine the type of assistance provided. These needs are expressed, for example, through members' national activity requests. Global trade developments also guide TA activities delivered at a regional or global level. Ensuring that technical assistance responds to members' needs is the main priority of the Secretariat.
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Nairobi Ministerial Declaration
In the Ministerial Declaration issued at the end of the WTO's Ministerial Conference in December 2015, ministers said: “We note the substantial progress in WTO's technical assistance and capacity building, which focus on the needs and priorities of beneficiary Members. We recognize that dedicated facilities such as the Standards and Trade Development Facility and the Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility are making an important contribution towards assisting developing country Members and LDCs to implement relevant WTO agreements. We also reiterate the importance of targeted and sustainable financial, technical, and capacity building assistance programmes to support the developing country Members, in particular LDCs, to implement their agreements, to adjust to the reform process, and to benefit from opportunities presented.”
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Technical assistance plan 2016-17
The Technical Assistance Plan for 2016-17 aims to help:
- government officials implement WTO agreements and make full use of members' rights
- governments negotiating WTO membership participate in accession negotiations
- members access the most relevant trade information so that they can better enforce their rights and obligations
- members of parliament, journalists and civil society learn more about WTO activities
- students and academic institutions supported by the WTO gain a better understanding of trade policy and WTO subjects.
The aim is to strengthen trade capacity in the following areas:
- trade policy formulation and implementation
- compliance with WTO obligations
- the exercising of WTO rights
- WTO-related trade negotiations.
Technical assistance is primarily geared towards government officials from developing countries, least-developed countries, economies in transition and countries in the process of joining the WTO. The audience can also include representatives from civil society, journalists, academia and the private sector.
Types of activity
The WTO organizes nearly 300 technical assistance activities every year, and trains over 14,000 government officials. Most WTO divisions are involved with the delivery of the courses. The training activities include lectures, presentations, roundtables, meetings with experts, simulation exercises and attendance at WTO meetings. The courses include two-month Advanced Trade Policy Courses (ATPCs) held in Geneva, regional Intermediate Trade Policy Courses, regional seminars, workshops and training events on specific topics. WTO members are invited to submit written requests for national technical assistance to the Secretariat, based on their individual needs.
The TA activities provide different levels of training Around two-thirds of activities are held at the national level and one-third at the regional level. The vast majority of activities address specific WTO agreements, such as the General Agreement on Services, the Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, and the Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement, and deal with a range of trade issues, such as market access, customs valuation, rules of origin, intellectual property, development and trade facilitation.
A key objective is to maintain a geographical balance in the delivery of activities but special attention is given to Africa, which benefits from over one-third of activities annually. Nearly 15 per cent of the WTO's technical assistance is geared towards Asia and the Pacific, while other activities are divided between Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Arab countries and the Middle East, and the Caribbean.
Priority is given to least-developed countries (LDCs), which are associated with over 45 per cent of all technical assistance delivered, including national activities held in LDCs, regional seminars, workshops and training activities to which LDCs are invited. Some products are specifically or largely geared towards LDCs, e.g. the three-week Introduction Courses for LDCs, “Geneva Weeks” for WTO members who do not have permanent missions in Geneva, the Reference Centres Programme, and the Netherlands Trainee Programme (NTP). LDCs receive priority attention in the selection process for Geneva-based training courses.
The implementation costs for the two-year TA Plan are around CHF 18 million. Some CHF 4.5 million is financed from the WTO's regular budget and CHF 14 million is provided from outside this budget. Contributions from WTO members have declined in recent years owing to the ongoing impact of the recent global financial crisis. One of the key challenges for the WTO is to increase the stability of financing for technical assistance activities as well as to ensure the timely receipt of contributions.
The WTO collaborates with a large number of international organizations and other bodies to deliver technical assistance activities. For example, the WTO participates in events organized by, or in cooperation with, other agencies and in trade-related conferences, symposia and high-level meetings. The WTO also makes use of the services of external consultants who participate in the delivery of regional and national activities and who undertake research. Also, university professors and researchers often participate as lecturers.
The database was developed to exchange information between partner agencies on the undertaking of technical assistance activities. The GTAD includes national and regional projects as well as training courses of a global nature undertaken since January 2010. The search engine enables the user to search through various parameters, such as beneficiary country or trade category.