A partnership with academia

Building knowledge for trade and development


altTen students of the Master's in International Trade programme at Vi Colombian affiliate member, Universidad Sergio Arboleda, took part in a training programme provided by UNCTAD experts March 9-10.

The third Vi study visit organized for Sergio Arboleda since 2013, this year’s programme, extended to two days, included presentations of the latest UNCTAD flagship reports, and lectures on entrepreneurship and trade in services in Colombia.

Alex Izurieta, of UNCTAD's Division on Globalization and Development Strategies, started the day’s discussions with a presentation of the latest Trade and Development Report.

The report stresses that developed countries are facing pre-crisis patterns due to insufficient demand and that the current policy mix that combines monetary expansion with fiscal austerity and wage restraint is ineffective and inconsistent.

“Countries are facing their weakest recovery since the Great Depression and one of the problems is that the roots of the economic crisis are not addressed,” Izurieta said. “As a countermeasure we propose a move towards skillful use of policy space that remains under existing trade and investment agreements to pursue proactive policies of structural transformation.”

The second session of the day was delivered by Hamed El-Kady, of UNCTAD's Division on Investment and Enterprise (DIAE). He began by presenting the international setting of investment rules before going into more detail on global investment policies and their challenges.

“The number of newly signed international investment treaties (IIAs) continues to decline,” he said. “This slowdown is revealed distinctly in multi-year period comparisons. From 2009 to 2012, on average one IIA per week was signed.”

He went on to give examples on the current investor-state disputes and the challenges these produce on developing countries.

“Most developing countries are investment rule-takers rather than rule-makers, and passively bear witness to a rapidly evolving system, effectively unable to make any substantive contributions that would safeguard their own national interests and priorities,” he explained.

The final lecture of the day was delivered by DIAE’s Cristina Martinez, who outlined opportunities for youth entrepreneurship in Colombia.

The issue ofglobal youth unemployment rate, which is currently at 73.4 million and projected to rise, started a lively discussion among students about the importance of supporting promising young entrepreneurs, as some of them are already either working for small & medium sized enterprises (SMEs), have started, or were thinking of starting, their own business in Bogota. Martinez concluded by giving examples of her own experience as a young female entrepreneur in Colombia.

The second day of the study visit was kicked off by Luisa Rodriguez, of the Division on International Trade in Goods and Services and Commodities, with a discussion of trade agreements and trends in trade and services from the Colombian perspective.

“Evidence indicates that services are playing a larger role in terms of production, GDP and employment,” she said. “Several countries in the region have signed "new generation trade agreements," (which cover trade in services), but there are challengesin promoting competitiveness and value added services sectors.

“The solution is linked to consistency or sequence with other policies: Colombia needs to promote supply capacity, identify and overcome barriers, facilitate exports and promote dialogue between actors.”

The two-day study tour ended with a look at the UN’s millennium development goals (MDGs) and the post-2015 development agenda, led by Rolf Traeger, of the Division on Africa and the Least Developed Countries.

Following an overview of the MDGs, Traeger moved on to consider the new sustainable development goals (SDGs).

“While the previously set goals were not met by the deadline and the new SDGs are criticized for being too ambitious – such as eradicating hunger and poverty by 2030 – the direction is encouraging for LDCs and there has been progress,” he said.

“The goals related to ending poverty and accelerating development are a priority on the international agenda and we have realized now that we need to speed the process in order to achieve these targets.”