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Boosting trade links for Commonwealth Countries

17 January 2015

International trade experts will meet next week to advance a ground-breaking Aid for Trade initiative aimed at boosting economic growth and reducing poverty in African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.

The Global Network meeting in Mauritius will strengthen the implementation of the innovative Hub and Spokes II Programme, which was launched in 2012 and has been recognised for its effectiveness in enhancing the trade capacity of ACP states.

The project, which is sponsored by the Commonwealth Secretariat, the European Union (EU), the Organisation Internationale de la Fracophonie (OIF) and the ACP Group Secretariat, provides support and technical assistance through the deployment of experienced Regional Trade Advisors (Hub) and National Trade Advisors (Spokes) to organisations and government ministries.

Andie Fong Toy, Deputy Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, described how the project had been “instrumental in supporting the Pacific ACP region’s engagement in Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations”.

The technical support provided by the programme has also contributed to a Micronesian Trade Treaty in the Pacific.

Representatives from businesses, academia, civil society and key international bodies, including the World Trade Organisation, will attend the conference on 19 – 23 January to assess its impact and decide on the 2015 agenda.

Deodat Maharaj, Deputy Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, has stressed the importance of helping ACP countries improve their international trading links, through the forging of strategic partnerships and the strengthening of regional networks.

He said: “In addition to €12 million from the European Union, the Commonwealth and OIF have contributed €2.5 million and €1.2 million respectively to the new Hub and Spokes programme.

“This investment is evidence of our commitment to ensure that ACP countries are able to manoeuvre through persisting global financial challenges, by creating sound and effective trade policies and reaping the full benefits of regional and international trade opportunities.”

He noted that the support to ACP countries was further boosted by the Secretariat’s vibrant in-house trade work programme.

Mr Maharaj added: “We thank the Government of Mauritius for hosting this important meeting, which will ensure our strategy for 2015 is strong, effective and tailored to regional priorities.”

The Hub and Spokes II programme builds on the successes of the previous €29 million Hub and Spokes project, which ran from 2004 to 2012 and supported ACP countries through international trade negotiations and with the implementation of trade agreements.

During the programme, more than 15,000 individuals and groups from the public and non-government sectors were trained on trade policy issues.

An independent evaluation of the project by Dr Stephen Woolcock of the London School of Economics and Political Science, concluded it “had made a real contribution to the negotiating capacity of the regions and countries where Hub & Spokes have been located.”

Mr Maharaj said the Hub and Spokes II Programme will help the Commonwealth realise its ambition of fostering economic development, given the absolute importance of trade in stimulating and generating sustained development.

He added that trade on equal terms is “good for growth, good for jobs and good for the Commonwealth.”