18-22 July 2011, New York, USA. The United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) conducted a seminar on International Trade Law and Policy. Held over five days from 18 to 22 July 2011 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, the seminar aimed at enhancing the knowledge on trade related-issues of delegates of Permanent Missions to the United Nations in New York. According to the evaluation questionnaires from 35 participants, the seminar was a success with all of the respondents who found the course completely satisfactory or mostly satisfactory.
The seminar consisted of two full-day sessions and three half-day sessions. Dr. Edwini Kessie of the WTO’s Institute for Training and Technical Cooperation facilitated the training. He covered three main elements: an overview of the international trading system, including WTO; an overview of the Doha Development Agenda, including the status of the negotiations; and a a simulation exercise on Dispute Settlement.
The third and last part of the training covered a number of cross-cutting issues related to world trade and the Doha Round, notably the inter-linkages between trade and intellectual property, trade and sustainable development, trade and human rights, trade and employment, trade and development as well as regional trade integration. Current important cross-cutting issues such as green economy and gender were discussed. Indeed, during the first panel entitled “Trade, Intellectual Property and Green Economy”, Dr. Rama Rao, Officer-in-Charge of WIPO Coordination Office in New York, explained notions such as patents and trade secrets. He further outlined the different phases of trends in green technology. Professor E. Donald Elliott from Yale Law School pointed out that patent protections do not necessarily strengthen innovation. He also explained that the battle around intellectual property and green technology is still rather an intellectual one. Moreover, Professor Robert Howse from New York University considered that that patent licensing is not holding back the development of green technology, but pricing is. He declared that the problem here is political as cap-and-trade is seen as a negative measure, while subsidies are seen as positive.
Deploring the absence of sex-disaggregated data on trade, Ms. Yassine Fall from UN-Women regretted that issues such as agriculture, food security and trade in services are still not analyzed using a gender-sensitive lens. Indeed, gender experts, whether men or women, usually do not participate in trade negotiations. She highlighted that gender and trade is still a recent issue and it is important to help women understand trade decisions and to undertake trade impact assessments on women.
Furthermore, Professor Peter Rosenblum from Columbia Law School covered the linkages between trade and human rights and acknowledged that human rights and trade are two bodies of law that seldom interact with each other in most multilateral fora. He noted, however, the exception of the nomination of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative of on Business and Human Rights.
Adding to this, Professor Rosenblum led a discussion on trade and sustainable development, including climate change issues. Also, Dr. Friedrich Soltau from the Division of Sustainable Development of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs underlined the issue of CO2 embodied in global trade. Indeed, he highlighted that “embodied carbon” refers to CO2 emitted at all stages of a good’s manufacturing process. He also noted that subsidies are a support for a “green industry” and ensure the deployment of clean technology. Professor Claire Kelly from the Brooklyn Law School explained that countries can unilaterally lower tariffs and trade barriers on climate mitigation goods. However, countries may worry about protecting these industries and building their own domestic capacity. She insisted that any plan for sustainable development will involve agriculture by incorporating global warming into development planning.
Bearing in mind the growing importance of South-South trade, Mr. Paul Ladd from UNDP highlighted that the real problem for LDCs might not be market access, but the productive capacity to export manufactured goods.
Ms. Mona Haddad from the World Bank led the last session which focused on Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs). She explained how RTAs and the WTO seem to evolve in two parallel spheres that seldom interact as the WTO has never approved a RTA; but at the same time, it has not disapproved one. Also, Ms. Haddad insisted on the fact that the key element for the effectiveness of “Aid for Trade” measures is the absorptive capacity of the developing country.
At the end of the seminar, participants felt that the learning objectives were relevant for them and that they met their learning objectives. All participants indicated that they would recommend the course to a colleague. One participant emphasized that “The seminar achieved its set of objectives. The resource persons selected were quite articulate and knowledgeable in their relevant field.” The participants received a certificate of participation.