• English

Joint Session of the Committee for Trade, Industry and Enterprise Development (CTIED) and the Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Commerce (UN/CEFACT)

(Geneva, 13 May 2003)
Statement by Mrs. Brigita Schmögnerová,
Executive Secretary

Distinguished Delegates,

It is a great pleasure for me to address you on the occasion of this joint session between the Committee for Trade, Industry and Enterprise Development and the Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business.

In the secretariat, we welcome and appreciate this joint session initiative as part of the Committee's efforts to look at the structure of its meetings and to experiment with new ways to improve effectiveness, to encourage the sharing of information and to stimulate cross-sectoral thinking.

In the outcome of last year's International Conference on Financing for Development, considerable emphasis was placed on the importance of international trade as an engine for development and a major contributor to poverty reduction. The UNECE therefore sees an important role for trade and the work of your Committee in preventing the development of new economic divides within the region and in promoting overall development and growth in the region.

To support work in this area, the secretariat has prepared a paper on "The regional impact of the development dimension of the multilateral trade negotiations in the WTO", as a part of the Secretary-General's Regional Cooperation Report, which explains how these negotiations will affect the future prospects for trade development in the UNECE region and, especially, for the least advantaged countries. This paper will be discussed by ECOSOC at its July 2003 session in Geneva, ECOSOC being the highest level in the United Nations for discussing economic and social issues.

I appreciate the seriousness with which the Committee and its Bureau have addressed the issues raised during the last year in the context of efforts to strengthen the United Nations and to make it both more efficient and effective. As part of the latest step in this process, at its March 2003 session, the UNECE discussed and I assume will agree in June on Action 2 to encourage its Principal Subsidiary Bodies to review their structures on an annual basis. It is my understanding that your Bureau has already initiated an in-depth review of the Committee's structures and I would like to encourage you in this work. In particular, you should take the opportunity to look at your priorities and to reflect on new developments and how these could be incorporated into your programme of work, but within existing resources. As one example, you may want to look at the issue of the knowledge economy and whether or not it would be appropriate for the CTIED to take a lead in this area and, if so, the inter-governmental structures that would be required for us to do so.

As you know, one of the Commission's objectives is also to encourage more cross-sectoral work and, in this context, I would like to congratulate you on the in-depth examination of common areas of interest between your Committee and the Inland Transport Committee that will be discussed later in this session. These discussions should result in even more concrete opportunities for cooperation between your two Committees in the future. As one example, the Working Party on Customs Questions affecting Transport might set up a joint transport and trade team of specialists in support of the TIR Convention that will include experts in trade facilitation, transport, Customs and insurance issues and we hope that the Committee and UN/CEFACT will be able to contribute fully to that team.

In another cross-sectoral area, namely trade and environment, I also appreciate the fact that work has progressed during the past year, especially in the areas of certification and conformity assessment. At the same time the World Summit on Sustainable Development agreed in its Plan of Implementation upon an increased role of the regional commissions in the implementation of Sustainable Development. It is indispensable to integrate the three dimensions of Sustainable Development into the programmes of work of all subprogrammes including Trade. I would therefore like to encourage you to further discuss how best to integrate the remaining two dimensions (environmental and social) into the work of the CTIED.

The Committee has also made an important contribution during the last year to the discussions on a wider Europe and how to create new policy dialogues while at the same time preventing the development of new barriers and divides in the region.

The workshop, "Trade, Business and Investment in a Wider Europe", which was organized on 7 April, highlighted some of the very important contributions that the Committee makes toward the accomplishment of these goals, namely in the area of reducing non-tariff barriers to trade through the development and promotion of regional and international standards, instruments for regulatory convergence, and trade facilitation.

I invite you to build upon this work and consider how you could support the non-accession countries to promote their economic integration among themselves and with the EU enlarged through free-trade arrangements. In particular, there is a need to support these countries by developing advisory capacities in close cooperation with UNCTAD and the ITC.

Given the development in trading relationships between newly acceded EU countries and non-acceding neighbours that will need to take place after 2004, the reduction of non-tariff barriers to trade and, therefore, your work, should have a prominent place in any policies aimed at maintaining and improving the economic well-being of the region.

Standardization fosters and permits governments and private actors to harmonize their actions in the economic sphere in order to achieve common objectives at a national, regional or international level. The work undertaken by the Committee makes a significant contribution to standardization in a number of important trade-related areas such as trade facilitation, e-business and agricultural quality standards.

During the last year we have seen an increasing interest in some of the traditional UNECE trade facilitation standards, such as the United Nations Layout Key and the UN Code for Trade and Transport Locations, known as UN/LOCODE. In the latter case, we have seen an increase in the demand for additions and changes to the UN/LOCODE from approximately 5000 requests in 2001 to 10,000 in 2002, with another 20% increase projected for 2003.

In addition, the UNECE has been very pleased to continue making a significant contribution to the international work on e-business standards through its maintenance of UN/EDIFACT, which forms the background of many large automated systems, particularly in the governmental arena; its work on ebXML; and the development of other technology independent standards such as the Universal Modelling Methodology (UMM).

The UNECE believes that, through UN/CEFACT, it provides an appropriate environment for the development of new e-business standards, which is open and has free public access. It also fosters cooperation and joint work between Governments and the private sector -- an essential element for the development of standards used in trade and an area where continuity is important. Thus, through your work, the United Nations is able to create a public good that is important for all our member States, and especially those that are at risk of being left on the "other side" of the digital divide.

In addition, we in the secretariat believe that UN/CEFACT has an important role to play in the implementation of trade facilitation in a world where decreasing tariffs result in increased non-tariff barriers to trade and at the same time security concerns result in great pressure for more controls and procedures. As the oldest and one of the most respected forums for trade facilitation work and as a recognised interlocutor in this area for the World Trade Organization as well as for the World Customs Organization, we in the secretariat believe that the UNECE and UN/CEFACT can make a real difference. However, in order for this potential to be realized, it is important both to give adequate priority to trade facilitation work and to place the emphasis on results. We must also ensure that trade facilitation concepts are incorporated into e-business tools and standards from their very inception in order to ensure their effectiveness and usefulness in regional and international trade.

This week the UN/CEFACT Plenary has begun discussions on the best approaches for funding and continuing their work, particularly in e-business standards. In this context, we were very pleased, last Friday, to receive the response from the Office of Legal Affairs in New York to the questions being posed by UN/CEFACT and its Steering Group. Many of these questions create new precedents in the United Nations environment and, in this light, the Office of Legal Affairs has had to examine them carefully. However, we are now confident that their response can serve as a road map for the future. Indeed, we hope that these discussions, and the resulting decisions, will result in an even more dynamic and results oriented UN/CEFACT.

Moving on to other standards developed under the Committee, the work on agricultural quality standards continues to expand, in response to requests from users, in order to include not just new products, but also a review of the existing standards to better understand their impact on the growers of organic produce and the codification of fresh produce, in order to enable the electronic exchange of information for trade in these products. Many of the Committee's standards form the basis for binding regulatory measures, particularly in the areas of trade facilitation and agricultural quality standards.

In the domain of technical regulations the Committee has also made a significant contribution to regional harmonization through Working Party 6 and its Model for International Regulatory Harmonization, as well as the various pilot implementations that it is developing.

In the area of industrial restructuring and enterprise development, there have also been a number of interesting and exciting developments during the last year.

In particular, in August 2002, as a contribution to the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, a first Regional Forum on Youth: Opportunity, Security and Prosperity was organized. The Forum was well attended by representatives from Governments, the business community and youth organizations. It developed recommendations to a number of international organizations dealing with the issues of youth entrepreneurship and employment. As a follow-up, the UNECE is now organizing, in collaboration with several international organizations including UNDESA, UNICEF, ILO, UNAIDS and UNDP, a sub-regional (CIS) Forum on Youth, scheduled to be held in Kiev in September 2003. The Second Forum on Women's Entrepreneurship held in Geneva in March 2003 focused on two important areas: financing women's entrepreneurship and ICT, and represented a step forward in promoting women's entrepreneurship, networking women entrepreneurs, etc.

The restructuring of old industries in transition economies was discussed recently in the Workshop on Policy and Regulatory Options for Promoting Industrial Restructuring. The progress in knowledge-based economy and IS in the UNECE region is monitored in reports on knowledge-based economy, which will be available for all transition economies or newly emerging market economies in the region.

I would also like to congratulate Working Party 8 on its decision to undertake an in-depth assessment of its programme of work in order to identify and prioritize programme elements on the basis of the benefits that they provide to member States, and to increase policy dialogue at its meetings through a new round table.

In international legal and commercial practices, Working Party 5 has continued to provide demand-driven technical advisory services to countries in transition and, through its capacity building work in the legal and institutional field, is contributing directly to the implementation of the United Nations development goals. Since the last session, the Intellectual Property Advisory Group, the Public-Private Partnership Alliance and the Land for Development programmes have held consultative meetings, training, seminars and conferences in ten transition economies.

To highlight just one of these, the Real Estate Advisory Group's Land for Development Programme was successfully launched in Rome in September 2002, and has received major support from the Government of the United Kingdom. This support will finance five study tours in the region that will allow governments to learn from the Russian experience with several ongoing projects to help poor rural workers turn their newly acquired land rights into revenue generating assets. The LFPD will hold its second Summit in Rome later this year on "Land for Security" in post conflict reconstruction, with the World Bank, UN Habitat, and the EBRD, as well as with NGOs such as the Royal Institute for Chartered Surveyors.

The next session of WP 5 will take place in Geneva on 17-19 November 2003, and will discuss its two new guidelines for improving governance in SMEs and for competitive tendering in public- private partnerships. In this context, when you are discussing the Committee's programme of work, I like you to consider to what extent the CTIED should take on work related to the very important issues of corporate governance and corporate responsibility either under WP 8 or WP 5.

In conclusion:

The Committee for Trade, Industry and Enterprise Development has an important role to play in the integration of all UNECE member States, and especially those with transition economies, into the global and world economy and also in the accomplishment of the United Nations Millennium Declaration goals. The norms, standards and recommendations coming out of the Committee form a valuable contribution to the economic integration and growth throughout the entire region. I am sure that the CTIED will continue to play this role. Finally I would like to wish the joint session of CTIED and UN/CEFACT success in your deliberations.

Thank you for your attention.

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