A key objective of the WTO’s technical assistance programme is to assist countries to comply with their commitments under the various multilateral trade agreements and, in so doing, put in place an appropriate regulatory framework of their choice. There is the recognition that an effective regulatory framework is sine quanon to countries deriving significant benefits from the multilateral trading system. Pursuant to Article 27.2 of the Dispute Settlement Understanding (DSU), the WTO has engaged two consultants to provide legal advice to developing countries wishing to have recourse to the WTO dispute settlement system. This is in recognition of the fact that the system is a central element in providing security and predictability to the multilateral trading system. Furthermore, the WTO is mandated under Article 27.3 of the DSU “to organize specialized dispute settlement courses for developing countries with a view to strengthening their capacity to fully understand the relevant rules and procedures and to be able to effectively use the dispute settlement system to defend their rights and legitimate obligations”.
Establishing and strengthening reference centres
WTO Reference Centres on the multilateral trading system use information technologies to help decision-makers in developing countries better understand and make better use of the rules and mechanisms of the WTO. They are usually established at the national level of eligible beneficiaries, and are generally attached to the Ministry of Trade. Exceptionally, Reference Centres can be established at the Permanent Mission and/ or at regional bodies and/or organizations. The main objective of establishing and strengthening Reference Centres is that government officials, the press, the business community, academia, and other authorized users have better access to WTO-related trade information and documentation. Resource persons, namely coordinators, are attached to the Reference Centres, to help users find their way through the technical and legal documentation.
Reference Centres are being increasingly promoted as e-learning centres in member countries. Indeed, the learning function of each Centre is being strengthened in order to support the development of participants’ autonomy, with a view to building and sustaining the long-term human and institutional capacity of beneficiary countries to participate more effectively in the rules-based multilateral trading system. Furthermore, the appointment of a dedicated RC manager has allowed ITTC to strengthen ownership at the national level. These managers receive comprehensive training on the access and use of relevant information needed to support their participation in the multilateral trading system.