Trade Policy Capacity Building: The CTPL Approach

Date January 11, 2002
Speaker William DYMOND(Executive Director, Center for Trade Policy and Law (CTPL), Carleton University/University of Ottawa)


The CTPL is an independent, university-based think tank that specializes in research, training, and advisory services in applied trade policy and law issues. Carleton University and the University of Ottawa founded the Center in 1989. It is the only organization in Canada that provides a comprehensive program of technical assistance and capacity development in the trade policy area. CTPL has provided training and advisory services in more than 40 countries.

People often identify the symptom rather than the problem. To solve the problem of the paucity of trained officials in developing countries, some would merely recommend that we train more people in those countries. But that is not enough. In developing countries, we find poor links with the business community and civil society. So policymaking is made at a superficial level. There is also a weak capacity to fulfill agreements.

Traditional trade policy training has been ill adapted to local circumstances. Foreign experts were overused. Using these foreign experts cannot be in-depth or sustainable. The training has been too basic, too specialized, and too theoretical. All of this has made the training unsustainable.

What is the Doha agenda? It will be a comprehensive, long-term negotiation on a mixture of old and new agendas. Moving from the old agenda will require movement on the new one, and developing countries understand this. Developing and sustaining domestic support has grown in importance. Poorer countries now understand that they need domestic support. The creation of an integrated domestic policy community can take five years or more. But this makes sense, considering the Doha timeframe may be five or ten years.

The essential elements of capacity building include partner implementation, institution building, tailored training, strategic advice, and technical assistance. A local trade policy partner can be established three ways: by establishing a trade policy unit within a ministry; by creating an independent trade policy center (a consultancy); or by working with an existing local institution (such as a think tank, a university, or a consultancy).

These three models of establishing local trade policy partners must focus on applied (not just theoretical) trade policy and law. There must be concrete policy recommendations. A small policy unit can be complemented by outside experts. In-house trade policy expertise should include former trade officials. The partner should have solid links to the trade ministry and private sector organizations. And, since English is now the language of negotiation, the personnel must have strong English language skills.

Towards training to build capacity, the program should aim to train the trainers, and leave something behind. Trainers should tailor programs to suit local needs and conditions. It is not just about differences in economic structure, but there are also differences in decision-making processes. I have heard people say, for example, "Washington is not a city, but a civilization." Finally, we need to provide the resources to help the partner implement the program.

The partner must receive strategic advice and technical assistance, delivered through face-to-face meetings on a confidential basis. Typically, partners are looking for practical advice to assist them with their working files and participation in international meetings and negotiations. They want advisers who are independent and have experience working with officials from more economically powerful countries.

The CTPL offers a certificate program in trade policy, it trains the trainers, and it provides strategic advice. The CTPL certificate program is six-week course for executives in trade policy, located at Carlton University. The program's real value is in teaching the business of trade policy: policy development and implementation, trade negotiation skills, public advocacy, and coalition building. Negotiation is all about preparation.

The CTPL training and advisory services address the lack of trade policy infrastructure, by aiming at sustainability (establishing local partners) and adapting the program to local circumstances.

Questions and Answers

Q: Whose capacity are you expanding? Sometimes it is the public, and not the negotiators, that need the capacity. Are you marketing to the poorer countries as well?

Yes, you must take capacity building to the general public. We do look at public capacity building and working with environmental groups, unions, industrial associations, etc.

Q: As for CTPL's trainees, how do you pick people from different countries, but with similar levels of knowledge?

That is a delicate problem. If countries nominate the wrong people, we cannot act as an admissions office. So we set criteria: background and, especially, language.

Q: How is the government involved?

We are not the only institute that the government uses. Trade capacity building is cheap compared to projects like building bridges or dams. So we don't need much money. We are not talking about building harbors or creating computer networks. The aid agencies are finally starting to understand this.

Q: Is there a battle between those that do trade policy and those that do aid policy? Canada seems to be unique in that you got these two agencies to cooperate. How did this occur in Canada, but not in Japan?

It is true that aid agencies want to build tangible things: they want to point to the things that they have built. The words you use to describe this training are important toward getting more groups on board. Aid people tend to be left-wing missionaries, while trade is seen as a corporate interest. So we have to speak to these groups in the right language.

Q: WTO capacity building is on the top of the METI aid division's list. How about sending WTO consultants to poor countries? Isn't there a limit to what classroom training can do?

The issue here is that not everyone is a good teacher. Some people just cannot teach. And human resources are not limitless. So you want to think about how best to spend your resources. Why not instead send that person to another country to establish a trade partner institution?

Q: Was your group motivated by the left-wing missionaries or the trade lawyers or by whom? Isn't the onus to learn the trade rules on the countries that trade?

We want these countries in the trading system because we want to trade with them. It is in the interest of your companies and investors to make sure these countries play by the rules. Rich countries are more open and transparent.

Q: What if the trainer that you train leaves his job?

Sometimes an entire government will leave and all of the people we trained with it. But sometimes the people go to work in another industry or sector, like a manufacturing association, and that is good because they bring their expertise with them. They raise the human capital of the country.

Q: How can you get rid of corruption?

That is not a capacity building job. It is a job of the trade agreements. Corruption occurs when agreements create trade laws that give officials discretionary decisions.

*This summary was compiled by RIETI Editorial staff.