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Assistance to small states on multilateral trade issues

Commonwealth Secretariat has placed a trade adviser in Geneva to assist Commonwealth small states in WTO deliberations

Country: Pan-Commonwealth
Host: Commonwealth Small States Office in Geneva
Start Date: 01 Sept 2016
End Date: 31 Aug 2018
Policy Area: Trade
Policy Adviser: Teddy Soobramanien
Project Manager: Pauline Campbell


The 2009 CHOGM mandate provided for support to Commonwealth Countries’ participation in multilateral trade negotiations, to ensure full and more beneficial participation in global trade, thereby making a fundamental contribution to prosperity, sustainable development and the elimination of poverty. However, most of the smallest Commonwealth developing countries lack the capacity needed to manage their effective participation in the WTO system to the extent that some are unable even to establish and maintain a resident diplomatic presence in Geneva where WTO and other UN agencies are located.

In 2011, a Commonwealth Small States Office was established in Geneva aimed at assisting Commonwealth States to better monitor, interpret rules, and evaluate ongoing developments and proposals pertaining to changes in multilateral trade rules that can affect the national interest of small states. The Geneva Office was targeted to strengthen the support to Commonwealth small states members.

While documented progress has been made under the CFTC Geneva Office, as evidence in a June 2015 evaluation report, it must be acknowledged that not all Small States (notably the ACP regions) are able to independently negotiate the minefield of WTO while some do not possess membership to WTO.  These countries have relatively low technical capacities and expertise in new trade areas such as investment, labour relations, intellectual property, anti-dumping and countervailing duties and completion policy.  The pool of experts is very limited and as a consequence small states are often unable to adequately negotiate these issues with the requisite authority that is required and therefore cannot articulate their position on these issues. Access to the expertise of the Geneva-based Trade Adviser enables a real and informed voice in the WTO deliberations.


The current project goal is to facilitate fuller integration and beneficial participation of Commonwealth Small States into the international trading system thus enabling enhanced economic growth and development.


The project is intended to strengthen the capacity of Commonwealth countries thus enabling better and more effective participation in the multilateral trading system. The project will strengthen the capacity of Commonwealth small states members to negotiate individually, with confidence and collectively for development-friendly outcomes from the Doha Round and other trade negotiations.

The main beneficiaries of the project will be the Ministries of Trade and Finance.  In addition, a range of government agencies/ministries that have responsibility for the management of trade related issues, e.g. Private Sector, Business partners, Customs, Tourism, local and foreign investors, etc. A broad range of relevant stakeholders and citizens will ultimately benefit from the outcomes of the technical support provided to the Government as these countries advance their development objectives.

  • Commonwealth Small States members informed of relevant developments in the multilateral trading system.
  • Terms of Reference for undertaking analysis on WTO issues, prepared and submitted.
  • Responses provided to Commonwealth Member states’ specific demands by WTO members.
  • Strengthened collaboration between Commonwealth Small States Group and other country groupings.
  • Strengthen collaboration between the Secretariat and Geneva Office.