Photo: Antonio Diaz In 2003, ITC held its annual
Executive Forum meeting for business and government leaders in
Cancún, Mexico, to provide a lead-in to the WTO's Ministerial
Meeting. This allowed participants to position export
competitiveness in the wider context of the Doha Development
Improving a country's export performance requires much more than
just winning more foreign contracts. Over the past six years, many
government officials and private business leaders in developing
countries and transition economies have come to understand this -
thanks to ITC's Executive Forum on National Export Strategies.
To help their countries compete in today's fast-paced,
challenging trade environment, trade strategy-makers have to be
broader in their outlook and more encompassing in their working
partnerships. It's no longer enough to focus on promoting existing
export goods and services - they have to look at developing
exports. In 1999, ITC held the first Executive Forum to fill a gap
in research on practical, working strategies for successful export
development. Government-business teams from developing and
transition economies share experiences from their country and learn
The idea for the Executive Forum took shape after years of contact
between ITC staff and government and business leaders from across
the developing world and the new economies emerging from the former
"Back in 1999," says ITC Executive Director J. Denis Bélisle, "our
intention was to advance the idea that decision-makers in
developing and transition economies needed to broaden their
approach to export development if they were to achieve a sustained
improvement in national export performance. The purpose was to
promote the importance for every country of putting in place a
realistic national export strategy and the capacity to manage it.
And that remains our basic philosophy today."
Mr Bélisle, whose home country, Canada, has built up a successful
national brand as an international trader as well as in ice hockey,
argues that strategy-making is "a team sport". This, he says, "is
not a discipline to be tackled by a single institution. To be
relevant, a national export strategy must reflect the input of a
spectrum of public sector organizations. And it must involve the
direct and continuous participation of the private sector.
Participation is a precondition of ownership." Every country
attending the Executive Forum has to send representatives from
government and business in a national team.