From 5 -16 May 2008, twenty-two students from the University of the West Indies (UWI) took part in a two-week study tour of Geneva, designed to complement their academic studies with exposure to the negotiation process at the WTO and the workings of other Geneva-based organizations, including UNCTAD, ITC, WIPO, ILO, IOM, AITIC, ICTSD, South Centre and Oxfam. In summing up the tour, one student reflected: "The study tour is a great experience for young professionals looking to move into the international trade arena."
The study tour - now in its fourth year - is a compulsory element of the UWI's vocational Masters programme in International Trade Policy which is offered by the University's Shridath Ramphal Centre (SRC). The intention of the tour is to expose students to a more practical dimension of their training, and to provide them with opportunities to discuss trade and development issues with experts and professionals based in Geneva. The Director of the SRC, Dr. Keith Nurse, emphasised the benefit to students of gaining different perspectives on issues of relevance to their future studies and careers from not one, but several organizations.
The tour comprised several elements, including hands-on training using trade-related databases and analytical tools, attendance at a WTO General Council meeting, as well as discussions on many topics, such as dispute settlement, intellectual property rights, Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) and the international financial system (see programme below). Students also had the opportunity to meet with their representatives from the Caribbean-region missions in Geneva in a round table discussion on the last day of the tour.
The final interactive round table included three Caribbean-region Ambassadors in Geneva - HE Gail Maturin (Jamaica), HE Dennis Francis (Trinidad and Tobago), and HE Trevor-Clarke (Barbados) - as well as Mr Stephen Fevrier from the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States and Mr Mathew Wilson from the Mission of Barbados. The discussion focussed on some of the challenges facing the region in multilateral and bilateral trade negotiations as well as capacity issues facing the region, such as the need for increasing numbers of well-trained trade professionals.
Addressing the increasing demand for empirical research and data in trade negotiations, HE Trevor Clarke stressed the need for data collection and quantitative information in negotiations, which potentially could be provided by Universities, trade-related institutions such as export promotion agencies and the private sector. Dr. Nurse agreed that greater communication between the different actors involved in Caribbean policymaking and their home-based research institutions would be beneficial; Neil Paul, Vi Member Coordinator at the UWI, suggested the need for even greater regional coordination in Geneva in the form of a unified CARICOM mission.
The round table itself is an example of communication between different national stakeholders, providing an opportunity to express concerns and to exchange information: between policymakers demanding data and analysis to formulate strategies, and academia who can identify areas of policy-relevant study and research.
A copy of the tour's programme and documentation can be downloaded by clicking here.