WTO members agree on Aid for Trade Work Programme for 2023-24

WTO members agree on Aid for Trade Work Programme for 2023-24

The Aid for Trade work programme for 2023-24 will focus on “Partnerships for Food Security, Digital Connectivity and Mainstreaming Trade”, WTO members decided at a meeting of the Trade and Development Committee on 10 February. The Committee was updated on recent Aid for Trade activities aimed at enhancing trade opportunities for developing countries and least-developed countries (LDCs).

The work programme outlines the priority areas for the WTO-led Aid-for-Trade initiative and will guide its activities over the next two years. Members will focus on how Aid for Trade can support food security, digital connectivity and mainstreaming of trade for developing countries and LDCs. The chair, Ambassador Usha Chandnee Dwarka-Canabady of Mauritius, will submit the work programme to the General Council so that it can take note of the programme at its meeting scheduled for 6 and 7 March.

Monitoring and evaluation of Aid for Trade is underpinned by a biennial Global Review which provides an opportunity for donors and recipients to advance the Aid for Trade agenda. A background note is available here. The Ninth Global Review of Aid for Trade will be held in 2024.(1)  Information about the Eighth Global Review can be found here.

Implementing Aid for Trade activities

WTO members reiterated their support for the WTO-led initiative and the new work programme, emphasizing the importance of coordinated activities.

On behalf of the WTO LDC group, Nepal highlighted the importance of focusing on the trade challenges LDCs face when graduating from LDC status. Columbia called for a discussion on the link between trade and sustainable development in the Aid for Trade work programme. The European Union underlined its commitment of over EUR 8.3 billion to promote food security in Ukraine.

Barbados, Djibouti, Seychelles and the United States explained how Aid for Trade has helped to support trade opening, as recorded in their recent Trade Policy Reviews. Through its USAID agency, the United States pledged USD 50 million for a new fund — the Enterprises for Development, Growth, and Empowerment Fund — that aims to improve business capacities and support trade activities to advance countries’ development objectives.
International financial institutions and intergovernmental organizations also shared updates on their activities and how their work is aligned with the new work programme.
The Asian Development Bank (AsDB) highlighted projects in Nepal and Maldives that support the implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement. It mentioned in particular work on digital policies and intensifying “green” trade, as noted in the Asian Economic Integration Report 2023.
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) said it has invested a record EUR 13.1 billion in 2022 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, a 20 per cent increase on 2020. Over 1,600 micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) have benefitted from the EBRD’s activities, notably through its trade facilitation programme, it noted.

Many members took the floor to express their strong condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its subsequent actions. The Russian delegate responded by saying that the WTO was not the proper venue for a discussion of this nature.

The World Bank emphasized the importance of working in partnership with other providers of Aid for Trade to increase the effectiveness of the initiatives. Green, resilient and inclusive trade is at the heart of the World Bank’s objective of helping developing countries achieve development goals, it said.

The International Trade Centre (ITC) explained how it is supporting the digitalisation of MSMEs in developing countries, for example through the “Switch ON” project underway in Zambia. Its Climate Smart Network creates a platform to connect with small businesses working to adapt to or mitigate climate change.

The Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) said that several of its projects carried out in LDCs are in line with the new Aid for Trade work programme and it will seek to do more. The support the EIF provided for the production of rice, maize and soybean in Laos, for example, has significantly boosted production.

Approximately 200 projects have been carried out by the Standards and Trade Development Facility to promote improved food safety, animal and plant health capacity in developing countries. The STDF’s future programmes will focus on knowledge-sharing and digital approaches as key areas to improve the quality of sanitary and phytosanitary measures.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) highlighted work on assisting developing countries in formulating e-commerce strategies and action plans. A total of 32 countries — including 22 LDCs — have completed an “eTrade Readiness Assessment”, and work is currently underway in Mauritania, Mongolia and Peru.

The WTO-led Aid for Trade Initiative encourages developing country governments and donors to recognize the role that trade can play in meeting countries’ development objectives. The initiative also encourages action to address the trade-related constraints identified by developing and least-developed countries (LDCs). Find out more about the Aid for Trade initiative here.


  1. The dates are yet to be determined.
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