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Major Issues on International Economic Agenda Focus of UNCTAD-UNESCWA Workshop


“The pace of globalization is accelerating, and in turn both the challenges and opportunities facing our member countries are increasing,” said UNESCWA Deputy Executive Secretary Atif Kubursi. “The situation in the current round of WTO negotiations is critical and it is very important that our member countries are best prepared for the upcoming deliberations,” he said. Kubursi was speaking at the opening today of a three week training course at the UN House, Beirut, in cooperation with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

The Second Regional Training Course on “Key Issues on the International Economic Agenda” focuses on issues pertaining to trade and WTO topics. Opening remarks were delivered by Mr. Kubursi, on behalf of UNESCWA Executive Secretary Mervat Tallawy, UNCTAD Deputy Secretary-General Dirk Bruinsma representing UNCTAD Secretary-General Supachai Panitchpakdi, and Mr. Nazem Abdalla, Chief of the Globalization and Regional Integration Division at UNESCWA.

Kubursi detailed examples of successful and complementary cooperation between UNESCWA and UNCTAD, including: a “Debt Management Training Workshop” in Beirut in 2004, in which government officials were given guidance on how better to monitor and manage the external and domestic debts of their respective countries; and assisting what are now eight UNESCWA member countries to establish Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) data bases. He stressed that capacity-building is a key factor in development.

In his statement, Bruinsma said the training course would make use of UNCTAD’s broad scope of research on a number of issues involved in development policy. On recent developments in the region, he said, “The region as a whole is estimated to have grown by 5.3% in 2005, with oil-exporting countries enjoying a continued expansion at 5.9%. Even oil-importing countries in the region have been able to draw overall benefit through spillover effects emanating from the oil boom, despite suffering from falling terms of trade.” Bruinsma also noted that in the area of FDI, the combination of high oil and gas prices, relatively high economic growth rates and continued liberalization have meant that in the past few years the region experienced the sharpest growth in FDI inflows among all the developing regions, with Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the UAE experiencing the highest increases. He stressed that there remain a number of challenges for the region, including management of the economy in the face of revenue inflows; wise expenditure of windfall profits; diversification of the economies; and addressing social problems in a more sustainable manner.

Designed for developing country decision makers from the region, the training will familiarize them with a wide spectrum of topical international trade and development issues and build their knowledge and skills in this area so that they can make informed decisions about the participation of their countries in trade - at the bilateral, regional and international levels. UNESCWA staff is also contributing to the substantive program where regional specificities, case studies and other experiences will be shared with participants in this course.

The 17 participants who deal with trade policy at their ministries and from academia were selected from Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Lebanon, Palestine, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. They will examine means of promoting the development friendly integration of their countries into the world trading system through understanding the factors and trends that determine the international economic agenda; and analyzing the interfaces between trade, investment and development. They will look at ways of formulating integrated development policies at the national level; how to take a multidisciplinary approach when tackling trade and development; and finally, study the best practices in designing national, regional and international policies on trade.