The Arab group and ITC work together to boost efficiency of arab countries participation in the world trade organization

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The full participation of Arab countries in the multilateral trading system is a high priority for most Arab governments that support the internal economic and social reforms to open up new vistas for the expansion of investments, trade and employment.

Currently, only 13 Arab countries are the members of the WTO, and seven others have acquired the status of observers in this organization and are considered to be countries in accession. However, the visibility of Arab countries at the WTO remains relatively low, particularly due to their insufficient participation in the WTO work, and indifference of national business communities towards some of the WTO salient subjects, such as negotiations on agricultural trade, market access, trade in services, intellectual property matters, sanitary and phytosanitary controls, trade facilitation, etc.

To this end, the Arab Group in Geneva has requested support from the AfTIAS programme to set up a team of technical experts in Geneva (Technical Support Team, TST), to provide technical and advisory assistance to the Arab Group. This support framework has to result in better coordination of positions of Arab countries at the WTO and their more efficient participation in the WTO work and negotiations for the benefit of national private sector.

The International Trade Centre (ITC) was selected as the implementing agency of this project based on the technical support potential of this organization and its efforts to promote regional integration and intraregional trade in the Arab region. ITC is expected to provide the required support to the TST by enabling the access to the needed expertise, the institutional knowledge as well as the wide range
of ITC’s tools.

In order to efficiently meet the specific needs in expert support of the Arab Group and to come up with the effective project document ITC had organized the two retreat sessions with the Ambassadors and Arab permanent missions` representatives in Geneva. The retreat sessions which took place on 27 April and 26 May 2016 aimed to reveal the priority needs of the Arab Group for technical assistance to
reflect them in the work programme of the project on “Enhancing the Effectiveness of the Arab Group to the WTO”.

The first retreat session was chaired by Ms. Arancha González, the ITC Executive Director and HE. Mr. Abdolazeez Al-Otaibi, the Chief of the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the WTO and the Coordinator of the Arab Group to the WTO..

In his opening remarks, the Ambassador of Saudi Arabia expressed the gratitude of the Arab Group to ITFC for granting an initial contribution under AfTIAS to embark on the project and to ITC for undertaking the project formulation exercise, as well as for its continuous availability to assist the Arab Group. The Ambassador highlighted a necessity to ensure that the project document reflects the priorities of all Arab countries, and that the project should help the Arab Group to be more efficient, without, however, undermining the work of the respective Permanent missions.

Ms. Gonzalez, highlighted a leading role of the Arab Group in the project formulation process.. Shealso confirmed the ITC’s commitment to assist Arab countries to meet the goals of their trade development agendas to further use trade policies as an engine of inclusive growth and employment generation.

The representatives of the Arab permanent missions expressed their appreciation for the organization of such events, and stressed the importance of continued dialogue and information sharing among the missions. They also assured to continue their efforts to reach the donors and secure the required findings to implement the full-fledged project.

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