Ambassadors of Commonwealth countries in Geneva say the Secretariat’s Small States Office gives them a voice on the world stage. They were speaking ahead of the annual meeting of the Commonwealth Small States Office, chaired by Nigel Morland, Chief Operating Officer at the Commonwealth.
Guyana’s Ambassador, John Ronald Deep Ford, said: “If you consider the impact of recent hurricanes that have knocked some small and vulnerable countries back 20 years, there is a lot of work to be done in terms of trade policy and how that impacts vulnerable economies in the World Trade Organisation’s work programme. That is why it is so important to have the support of the Small State Office.
“We would like to see special and differential treatment that allows the small developing countries to have the flexibility to bounce back after these disasters. “We don’t want to see the current rules and restrictions on their trade, and the ability to support farmers to access markets, to be a limiting factor in their recovery. So the WTO must be flexible and agile.”
The Ambassador from Mauritius, Israhyananda Dhalladoo, said: “The workshops, news briefs, negotiating briefs and analytical work of the project has deepened the Mauritius delegation’s understanding of topical issues under negotiation at the WTO.
“The project is also helping us connect with potential providers of technical assistance in areas of trade facilitation. Mauritius supports any necessary measures to strengthen the project, particularly ensuring its continuation in face of changing trade negotiating dynamics in and outside Geneva.”
Malawi’s Ambassador, Robert Dufter Salama, added: “Because we have a small team here in Geneva, it is hard to keep pace with the flow of information from international organisations like the UN and WTO. This is where the trade office of the Commonwealth is invaluable.”
The office and business centre is home to small Commonwealth states including Malawi, Guyana, Solomon Islands and Seychelles as well as permanent delegations of regional groups such as the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the Pacific Islands Forum (PIFS). It is within walking distance of both the UN and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and not only provides tenants with a physical location, but support and advice from Collin Zhuawu, a trade advisor at the Commonwealth. Part of Dr Zhuawu’s remit is to brief and report back on discussions and decisions made at the UN and WTO. Typically, small states operate in Geneva with a skeleton staff, so his support often proves invaluable.