Quarterly Newsletter Q3/2022

As we return from the Christmas period, the Trade and Investment Advocacy Fund 2+ (TAF2+) would like to start by wishing you a happy New Year. We hope that you had a restful break.

To start off this New Year, we wanted to reflect on the successful activities that took place over the previous quarter, and present some of the latest updates that have occurred over the October to December period, including:

  • Support to the multiple groups and actors at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), including the Least Developed Countries (LDC), the Asia Caribbean Pacific (ACP), and the Pacific Island Forum (PIF); where we have continued to advance the outcomes of MC12 and ambitions of MC13.
  • Renewed support to the WTO Umbrella Grant which provides alternative ad-hoc technical support to developing countries at the WTO.
  • A launch of a new paper around the intersection of Trade and Disability, written by Dr Amrita Bahri and promoted by Deputy-Director Angela Ellard in early December.
  • The development of a new analytical tool for governments to assess the preparedness and readiness of a Country’s ability to react in the face of global economic shocks.
  • Renewed support to Phase II of the Mozambique Bilateral Investment Treaty, with the focus now on creating a practical guiding framework for the set-up of a future cross-Ministerial investment negotiation committee.

You can read more about all of these programmes and activities from our Grant Officers in the following sections below.

TAF2+ is an FCDO funded, six year programme which, at its broadest, offers support to the poorest developing countries to help them engage in vital trade negotiations. The programme ultimately seeks to increase the technical skills and coordination of trade and investment ministries in developing countries and to help more developing countries to effectively participate trade and investment negotiations; and harness the benefits of those outcomes through meaningful strategies and wider donor coordination. You can find out more information on our website and social media page.

Please do feel free to reach out to us, on any matter, at taf2plus@cowater.com.

World Trade Organisation Activities

TAF2+ has provided critical support for the LDC and ACP Group in their WTO negotiations for over a decade, helping its members develop a coherent approach based on technical expertise and political strategy in advance of WTO Ministerial Meetings.

TAF2+, with funding from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, has also been providing key technical support to strengthen the ability of the Pacific Group to effectively develop and drive the agenda for Ministerial Conference’s and strengthen the Group’s overall capacity to engage in the multilateral system for the overall benefit of the region.

Least Developing Countries Group:
Roxane Burstow, Grant Officer & Investment Portfolio Lead

The recently concluded WTO Ministerial (MC12) saw several significant outcomes, with a number of interventions and submissions from the Group (including in agriculture, fisheries, LDC preferences, WTO Reform, graduation) which contributed the MC12 outcome document, and with all submissions offering elements for consensus.

Activities this quarter built on the MC12 momentum, with key activities including a revisit of the LDC Graduation proposal. This was unfortunately not taken up at MC12 due to lack of time at the conference to consider the proposal.  However, the LDC Group over the course of this quarter have focused on developing revisions of the graduation proposal incorporating elements from different WTO Members, a brainstorming workshop on the MC12 agriculture, and technical inputs in to the WTO agriculture and fisheries retreats held in October.

On the revised graduation proposal, a number of countries are now actively endorsing and advocating for the proposals, hoping to reach an agreement by MC13.  The agriculture brainstorming workshop resulted in concrete suggestions, which were put forward by the Group in the work post-MC12 to fulfill the mandate in paragraph 8 of the MC12 Food Insecurity Declaration, to establish a Work Programme. The WTO Agriculture Committee fulfilled the MC12 mandate and adopted a work programme this quarter, including the inputs from the LDC Group, that were developed at the workshop.

Additional activities include:

  • A paper on Trade and Environment (T&E) to help enhance LDC participation in the T&E Committee
  • An analytical note on the science behind the fisheries overcapacity and overfishing proposals remaining for phase two of the fisheries subsidies negotiations
  • A technical paper on the functioning of the LDC Group for the back to basics workshop now scheduled for January, as well as an update to the LDC handbook.

Looking forward, an LDC Ambassador retreat will be held in the New Year to prepare for MC13.

Asia Caribbean Pacific Group:
Roxane Burstow, Grant Officer & Investment Portfolio Lead

Hands on support was given to consistently lead the ACP Group over the last three years into negotiations on the fisheries text for adoption at MC12 with notable landmark achievements. The final fish text was eventually adopted with several texts agreed that were generated from the advisory support.  The text safeguarded ACP positions, gains, and potential further work post-MC12 in the second phase.

This quarter the TAF2+ team developed a post-MC12 analytical matrix on the Fisheries Subsidies Agreement, as well as organising meetings on the implementation of the first phase of the fisheries subsidies negotiations, and an experts level meeting in preparation for the second phase of the agreement.

In addition, following from the WTO Director General Evian retreat on Fisheries, an analytical note on the science behind past proposals on overcapacity and overfishing was requested by the Group and provided by the advisors.

A roundtable of the ACP fish core group was held, where the document was presented and discussed. A technical note and webinar workshop was also designed, developed and held on Electronic Commerce covering the Work Programme and core issues of interest to ACP Members. The workshop introduced presenters on consumer protection, non-discriminatory internal tax options from both the UN and OECD, and a survey across the global, data protection, and digital divide solutions. The team prepared an interactive exercise as well to tease out ideas from the participants based on their domestic experiences.

An ACP Ambassadors retreat will held in the new year to prepare for MC13

Pacific Island’s Forum Secretariat:
Tuba Khan, Grant Officer

In November, following the MC12 of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) held in June of this year, the WTO Members reconvened to discuss the implementation of the Ministerial mandates adopted at MC12 in Nadi, Fiji at the High-Level Pacific Regional Event on Fisheries Subsidies from 16 to 18 November 2022.

In November, specifically for the fisheries subsidies work, there were two areas for the Members to implement: the first was ratification and implementation of the newly adopted Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies (FSA) and the second addressed the second wave of negotiations to include comprehensive disciplines on the remaining issues with the aim of making recommendations at the 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) as per paragraph 4 of the Ministerial Decision. These negotiations, greatly anticipated by all members, will tackle subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing while recognising the special needs of developing countries.

The first two days of the event contained a Capacity-Building Workshop for the six Pacific WTO Members (Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu) where their Senior Officials were given a detailed understanding of the FSA from the WTO Secretariat.

The Ministerial Sessions was held on 18 November and involved all eight Forum WTO Members (six Pacific WTO Members plus Australia and New Zealand) in which the Ministers discussed the way forward for the Pacific region to work together in terms of FSA ratification process and implementation as well as the second wave of negotiations. The event also provided an opportunity for the Pacific region to reflect on the other MC12 outcomes that make up the Geneva Package and collectively consider its priorities in the post-MC12 work, in the lead up to MC13.

The Pacific was delighted to welcome the WTO Director General (DG) Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for her first visit to the region, where she met with Forum WTO Trade Ministers during a Ministerial Roundtable. DG Okonjo-Iweala’s visit also provides the opportunity for the Signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the PIFS and WTO which is being renewed for the fourth time.

The WTO aims to play an even greater role in tackling the most pressing challenges of the Oceania region, from addressing the sustainability of our oceans, to doing our part for the climate, and supporting digital connectivity. Much of its current and future work support the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent.

The WTO is committed to being part of that journey and welcomes the opportunity to be a meaningful partner in the region’s development and future prosperity. TAF2+ reiterates to continue its support to both the Pacific Group in the development of a robust and reflective MC13 agenda and the tools and mechanism to enable effective agenda-setting over the longer term. This includes providing dedicated coaching to strengthen the communication and coordination between Geneva missions, the PIF Secretariat and capital officials. TAF2+ will continue to ensure work planning and project delivery is a collaborative effort to strengthen ownership and will provide tools to ensure all relevant documents can be easily accessed after the end of the project.

WTO Umbrella Grant
Roxane Burstow, Grant Officer & Investment Portfolio Lead

The Umbrella Grant (UG) was launched in 2020 to support developing countries and LDCs in the Joint Statement Initiative (JSI) discussions on e-commerce, investment facilitation (IF) and micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs). Following a short break in the service, activities resumed this quarter in a Phase III of the project.

During the first two Phases of this grant, TAF2+ worked to support 13 priority countries to access key information and study their national interests, enabling them to participate more effectively in the ongoing WTO work programmes and make valuable contributions and concrete proposals during negotiations. Over this period, the team designed and delivered 30 events (at the national, regional and multilateral level), prepared and issued 20 publications, made 125 ad hoc support interventions, and set up a first-of-its-kind online MSME platform for member states.

Given the marked interest for UG technical assistance beyond the 13 priority countries, the current phase now extends support to all developing countries and LDCs. In the run up to MC13, and in response to the increased requests for more targeted country-specific assistance, the project has been redesigned to primarily provide ad-hoc demand-driven support related to e-commerce and IF.

This quarter the UG fielded a significant 128 queries on e-commerce, notably around privacy and personal information protection. A further 53 queries were fielded on IF, and the team is working to produce three analytical notes on IF, including one comparing Easter text 9 and 10. Two policy briefs and a workshop on the two JSIs are planned for the New Year.

Strategic Window Activities

Through the Strategic Window, TAF2+ provides support to developing countries before a negotiation and immediately after an agreement has been reached. Typical projects run from two to four years and provide technical advice and longer-term skills training.

Gender and Social Inclusion Grant:
Caitlin Poole, Grant Officer and GEDSI Lead

During this Quarter, the Trade and Investment Advocacy Facility (TAF2+) team were delighted to support the launch of a recently completed piece of work, focusing on the intersection of Trade and Disability. Written by Dr Amrita Bahri, this paper provided a comprehensive review of the impact and focus of disability inclusion within international trade agreements, titled: Making Trade Agreements Work for People with Disabilities: What’s been Achieved and What Remains Undone?

The online launch event took place on Thursday 8th December, where Dr Bahri was joined by WTO’s Deputy-Director General, Angela Ellard, who provided introductory comments webinar. Additionally, we were also delighted to be joined by experts and representatives from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the DisAbled Women’s Network of Canada.

After thanking the FCDO, TAF2+, and Cowater International Inc. for sponsoring the study and for providing organizational support, DDG Ellard went on to describe the study as “the first comprehensive study that maps out countries’ approaches to incorporating provisions on disability into Free Trade Agreement’s.” Furthermore, the “policy recommendations for future negotiations… will be enlightening and enormously useful for policy-makers, negotiators, civil society, and trade policy afficionados.”

The webinar has now been published on Cowater’s website and you can now watch a full recording here: TAF2+ Webinar on Trade and Disability

The TAF2+ is grateful to all those who could attend and participate in this webinar, and look forward to continuing support for pioneering work in gender equality, disability, social inclusion and trade. If you would like to receive updates regarding TAF2+ Gender and Trade work, then please register by selecting the ‘Join Us’ section on the Gender and Trade Website.

Better Trade Resilience Toolkit
Joe McLynn, Grant Officer & Project Manager

In November, the TAF2+ team were delighted to announce funding to a new grant which will focus on the development of a prototype ‘toolkit,’ that will equip governments with greater diagnostic tools to help identify and improve pre-existing weaknesses in a countries trade policy.

While the impact of the COVID-19 has subsided and disruptions to global trading supply chains have weakened, global trade remains significantly exposed to repeated and systemic crises – termed by WTO Director-General OkonjoIweala as one of “Polycrisis”. Systemic shocks and disruptive events like COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine have shown that disruption in one area can cascade through the economic and trade system as a whole, given the interconnectedness that characterises it.

Small developing countries and LDC’s are significantly more at risk of these shocks than larger country governments, due to the lack of available fiscal, legal and policy tools that can be activated in response to disruptions. COVID-19 has increased disruptions to global supply chains and the inability to deliver broad, macro level intervention, it is therefore important for developing countries to create and design more resilient and inclusive trade policy and tools to help directly respond to future shocks.

The Trade Resilience Toolkit will be aimed at trade policymakers to help diagnose their trade policy’s level of resilience to future systemic shocks, and identify suitable adaptations for better preparedness through a set of survey, diagnosis and response-planning tools. This will ultimately lead to future systemic shocks having comparatively fewer negative impacts on poverty in developing and least-developed countries, especially amongst the most vulnerable groups.

The TAF2+ team looks forward to continuing receiving and providing updates about the development of this tool.

Mozambique Investment Grant
Roxane Burstow, Grant Officer & Investment Portfolio Lead

The Support for Investment Treaties Project in Mozambique Phase II grant was successfully launched this quarter. The project is one of TAF2+’s four long-term grants supporting investment negotiations in the Africa region, with grants successfully completed in Burkina Faso, Mali and Rwanda. These grants have enabled partner countries to better negotiate investment agreements through a combination of technical assistance and capacity building activities, as well as formalizing and upskilling future investment negotiation teams.

Phase I of the Mozambique grant kick-started with an in-depth impact assessment of Mozambique’s existing Bilateral Investment Treaties (BIT) and extensive stakeholder consultations with relevant Ministries involved in investment negotiations. On the basis of these findings, the team then worked in close collaboration with the Government of Mozambique to develop a customized BIT model and strategy with actionable recommendations for the negotiation of its bilateral, regional and multilateral investment agreements. These critical tools were adopted following a public consultation, and are now being utilized to inform live negotiations.

Phase II of the project focuses on providing Mozambique with a practical guiding framework for the set-up of a future cross-Ministerial investment negotiation committee. This framework will be developed based on lessons learnt from TAF2+’s other Africa region grants, as well as international best practice. To date, an initial informal consultation has taken place with relevant stakeholders to present the proposed approach, take stock of existing structures in place for negotiations, as well as ensure the proposed committee guidelines align with the overall BIT strategy developed during Phase I. The technical team will be complementing the consultation findings with a desk review, and presenting the guiding framework to stakeholders in the New Year.