19 de Enero de 2019
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Colección: Trends for a common future
Autor: Sidney Weintraub
Título: Technical Cooperation Needs for Hemispheric trade Negotiations

II. Organizing Framework

Much has been written about the need for technical assistance to enable countries with small economies to engage profitably in comprehensive trade negotiations. Indeed, a large network of assistance providers exists, although there is uncertainty as to whether the training offered always meets the needs. The main complicating factor in achieving some consonance between supply and need is the large scope of the FTAA endeavor.

A “trade” negotiation has the ring to the uninitiated of a limited venture, but in fact goes to the heart of development policy. There is hardly an aspect of national development that is completely divorced from getting ready to negotiate trade policy. Some related issues that come to mind are the country’s macroeconomic framework, including exchange-rate policy, its handling of capital inflows, the tax structure, infrastructure needs, education of the work force, assessment of existing and potential comparative advantages, keeping up with exploding technology, and the effectiveness of the judicial system for dealing with trade and investment disputes.

There are then matters affecting the ability of the country to evaluate the effects on its economic fortunes of trade concessions given and received. For many countries in LAC, this requires developing information-gathering capacity—how much is being imported, from where, the impacts on domestic ventures, potential export markets—because much data are now gathered sporadically and often erroneously.

For many countries, the cadre of experienced negotiators is limited. The best way to learn about the dynamics of a trade negotiation is from actual experience and many small countries have not given their officials much opportunity for this learning-by-negotiating. The general assessment of persons connected with the ongoing FTAA exercise is that the process itself has been the most valuable teacher. The slow pace of the operation at the outset, the formation of working groups, the repeated gathering of players from around the hemisphere and the discussion and debates thus generated, have taught neophyte negotiators a great deal about what is involved. This learning experience presumably will continue until the hard and specific sectoral and item-by-item negotiating begins.

The training task relates not just to the up-front negotiators, but their backstopping in capitals. This involves analysis of the benefits for the country of the offers made and the requests it should make. A negotiator cannot be knowledgeable in all technical areas and must rely on experts back home. Acquiring and maintaining this expertise is becoming increasingly complex in fields in which changes are taking place at what seems like the speed of light, such as information technology, telecommunications, and financial services.

Because the needs are vast, it is impossible for small countries with limited financial and human resources to cover all issues. This reality requires that priorities must be set, that countries must make judgments about their most vital needs and concentrate on them. Technical assistance undoubtedly will be needed to help small countries winnow the significant from the largely secondary universe that confronts them.

The enormity of the task requires that there be some organizing structure to lay out the needs for technical assistance for the LAC countries. This will be done in what follows in the following manner:
  • What are the key development needs that must be stressed to get the maximum benefit from a comprehensive negotiation that will lead to hemispheric free trade?
  • What are the overall negotiating needs?
  • Finally, what are the needs in the specific negotiating and consultative groups that have been established?
Figure 1 is a diagram of this organizing structure.

This discussion is intended to provide general guidance and it is evident that the precise technical assistance requirements of any specific country will depend on its own assessment of its situation.