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Commonwealth trade guide helps countries secure development gains

26 June 2013
“This book provides a ray of hope to small states" - Assad Bhuglah, Director of Trade Policy at the International Trade Division, Mauritius

A practical guide on getting the most out of trade negotiations for small states was launched today at a Commonwealth meeting in Geneva.

Negotiating Against the Odds: A Guide for Trade Negotiators from Developing Countries was presented to policymakers and trade negotiators and experts from across the globe meeting at the World Trade Organization (WTO). It provides advice and lessons for capacity constrained developing countries on negotiating effectively in a global environment to achieve sustainable growth and development.

The Commonwealth Secretariat has been working with the Global Economic Governance Programme (GEG) of the University of Oxford, UK, to prepare the guide.

Director of the Secretariat’s Economic Affairs Division, Dr Cyrus Rustomjee, said: “This guide has been taken through a rigorous process of trial and testing with academics and experts. It is full of case studies and insights on how to preparing tactically for negotiations and it’s a tool that can be used in the long term to empower member states in negotiating.”

Negotiating Against the Odds draws on the experiences of more than 100 developing country negotiators and the insights of leading academic studies. It uses case studies to illustrate the approaches and tactics that smaller countries can use, even when faced with financial and human resource shortages, or pressure tactics from larger countries. While it focuses on trade, it is also applicable to other international negotiations on areas such as aid, financial regulation and climate change.

Emily Jones, Deputy Director of the GEG and author of the publication, said: “We asked, how can developing countries exert maximum influence at the negotiating table?

“Your influence is not just determined by the size of your country’s wealth. It’s determined by the extent and rigour of your preparations for negotiations. The hold a country can have over you is measured by your ability to walk away from the negotiating table. Know when it’s better to exit, no deal is better than a bad deal.”

Assad Bhuglah, Director of Trade Policy at the International Trade Division, Mauritius, said: “This book provides a ray of hope to small states because they sit at a disadvantage because of their inherent weaknesses. A negotiating team from a small country will have to work on several fronts whereas large countries will have a bigger delegation. That has consequences on the negotiating capacity of small states.”

The guide draws on previous research by the GEG in the Secretariat publication Manoeuvring at the Margins, which identified the particular constraints faced by small states in international trade negotiations.

Esmond Reid, Minister and Deputy Permanent Representative of Jamaica to the WTO in Geneva added: “Any trade negotiation must be informed and underpinned by development objectives. Development can mean many different things to different people. For some a new superhighway, for others a better developed services sector or moving from a labour intensive to capital intensive market, development is a multifaceted process and it must inform every aspect of negotiations.”

The launch was on the first of a two-day Commonwealth Secretariat workshop on improving the integration of Commonwealth least developed and small and vulnerable economies in the multilateral trading system, and their ability to benefit from Aid for Trade resources. Participants heard from Director of the WTO Development Division Shishir Priyadarshi, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Jamaica to Geneva Wayne McCook, and trade experts from across the Commonwealth.

Nobel prize-winning economist Professor Joseph Stiglitz will present a report proposing new ways of ensuring that international trade benefits developing countries on the last day of the meeting on 26 June 2013.

Journalists are welcome to register to attend the launch at 3.30pm (CEST).

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