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September 19th, 2014

Ronny Ortega

CRAZY DAIZEY

TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE WITHIN THE FRAMEWORK OF THE WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION
This study focuses on capacity development and assistance measures in the context of WTO agreements and through WTO-partnered initiatives outside the agreements—the Joint Integrated Technical Assistance Programme to Selected Least Developed and Other African Countries and the Integrated Framework for Trade-Related Technical Assistance. An analysis of the measures in the WTO agreements shows that they are limited in scope, aiming primarily at compliance with WTO provisions. The WTO-partnered initiatives have had mixed results.
Within the WTO, efforts are made to address the gap in capacity by providing technical assistance under WTO agreements. This assistance emphasizes workshops, seminars, technical missions, briefing sessions and documentation to assist developing countries in adjusting to WTO rules, implementing their WTO commitments and exercising their rights as members.
Each agreement has specific clauses on technical assistance. Although many of these provisions are binding, they tend to be difficult to implement because they require mutual agreement on the terms of the assistance provided.
The technical assistance provisions are comprehensive, span the range of agreements and are aimed at assisting developing countries as they integrate into the global trading system. But most technical assistance in this framework has failed to address the real needs of developing countries on two counts; in assisting them to participate effectively at the international level and in helping to build capacity on their terms and tailored to their needs. Part of the reason is that such technical assistance is limited primarily to helping developing countries become compliant with WTO provisions rather than helping them build the capacity to trade more, negotiate better or adjust internally to the demands of increased integration.
The measures suffer from four main shortcomings:
• Compliance focused. Although the technical assistance has been aimed at assisting developing countries in complying with WTO agreements and commitments, there has been little work done to estimate the costs of compliance and factor them into the technical assistance efforts. These costs can be significant, with compliance often involving substantial administrative requirements, changes in legislation and new institutions and enforcement mechanisms. Moreover, the technical assistance provisions are narrowly defined and often have little relevance to the development process of countries. And many have little relevance for countries at low levels of economic and industrial development.
• Donor driven. Technical assistance has remained primarily a top-down process with little ownership by developing countries. But donor-driven technical assistance has historically not worked: it undermines local capacity, distorts priorities, increases administrative burdens and is driven by donor priorities and needs rather than local requirements. More important, it focuses on ‘development as displacement rather than development as transformation’.
• Open ended. The provisions for technical assistance are largely open ended. They are contingent on future negotiations, with most requiring that technical assistance be provided ‘on mutually agreed terms’ or ‘if requested’. Much of the technical assistance has been intended as a quid pro quo for an expanded negotiation agenda and has been used as a political tool to promote a negotiation mandate. While the terms of the technical assistance provisions are reasonable, they are hard to implement and often require yet more negotiating capacity in developing countries. Moreover, even though the provisions are technically binding, there are few mechanisms to ensure that they are actually implemented.
• Inadequate and inappropriate provisions. The provisions for technical assistance are inadequate for addressing the needs of developing countries. Technical assistance fails to recognize the diversity among developing countries and their needs, rarely going beyond categorizing countries as least developed or not. Moreover, the WTO has limited personnel and other resources for meeting the demands and requests for developing countries.