DDG Yi awards WTO Chair to Istanbul Bilgi University
Thursday, February 12, 2015
Deputy Director-General Yi Xiaozhun, on 12 February, launched the WTO Chairs Programme at the Faculty of Law, Istanbul Bilgi University in Turkey. He expressed the hope that “WTO’s contribution will make a difference in further developing academic courses, promoting new research initiatives, and linking up these enhanced institutional capacities to other universities and research institutions in Turkey and in this region”. The Bilgi University has 18,000 students and nearly 1,000 academic staff members.
Speech by DDG Yi
Deputy Undersecretary Mr Hüsnü Dilemre from the Turkish Ministry of Economy; Mr Rifat Saricaoglu, President of Istanbul Bilgi University's Board of Trustees; Professor Renzi Sanver, Rector of Istanbul Bilgi University; Professor Turgut Tarhanli, Dean of the Faculty of Law; Mr. Robert Schuddeboom, Consul General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands; Dr Kamer Karakurum Ozdemir, Senior Economist, World Bank; Mr Tahsin Oztiryaki, Vice President of the Turkish Exporters Assembly; Professor Pinar Artiran, WTO Chair holder and Assistant Professor of International Trade and EU Economic Law; valued staff and students of Istanbul Bilgi University; Ladies and Gentlemen.
I am particularly pleased to represent the WTO Director General, Roberto Azevêdo, and to be here today to officially launch the WTO Chair recently awarded to the Faculty of Law, Istanbul Bilgi University. I would also like to express my appreciation to Assistant Professor Pinar Artiran and all the organisers of this launch for the warm reception I have received.
I would like to specially welcome the Members of the Government of Turkey present today for this ceremony. It is an honour and privilege to have you here today and your presence illustrates the importance that your government gives to the WTO, its technical cooperation activities, and to this programme in particular.
It should perhaps come as no surprise that the WTO Chair is being awarded to Bilgi University. Although founded only in 1996, it has come a long way in achievement. It is a member of the Laureate International Universities, a leading international network of quality, innovative institutions of higher education. It is also an active participant in the Erasmus exchange network and has strong academic affiliations with numerous universities abroad. The university now has 18,000 students, nearly 1,000 academic staff members, 6 faculties, 5 institutes, 3 schools, 3 vocational schools, and more than 150 programs that provide education to its associate, undergraduate and graduate students.
Our Members recognise the importance of technical assistance as a key pillar of our activities and as a fundamental element of the development dimension of the multilateral trading system. The current Doha round of multilateral trade negotiations is profoundly development oriented and one manifestation of this is the solid technical assistance package that has been built by the WTO Secretariat for its developing and least developed countries.
Technical assistance is an important component of our mandate and our biennial plan incorporates the various activities we organize for the beneficiary countries with the objective to reinforce the skills of officials dealing with trade policy.
Therefore our presence in this event reiterates our standing commitment to support the development of capacities in academic institutions in developing countries. Our hope is that WTO's contribution will make a difference in further developing academic courses, promoting new research initiatives, and linking up these enhanced institutional capacities to other universities and research institutions in Turkey and in this region.
WTO Chairs Programme and trade related capacity building
Ladies and gentlemen, the WTO Chairs programme was developed with a core objective to enhance the knowledge and capacities of academics in trade related issues in the developing countries. The main aim of this programme is to support the human and institutional capacities of academics and encourage them to develop their work on WTO issues. We launched this programme to also encourage policy dialogue between policy makers dealing with the negotiations and the experts and academics thinking and reflecting in the assessment of trade policy scenarios.
The programme is structured along three pillars: curriculum development, research activities, and support for outreach activities. The curricula development pillar supports the development and delivery of courses on trade policy and WTO-related matters in academic institutions; the research pillar aims to promote research focused on extending specialized knowledge and explaining the policy relevance of existing research; and the outreach component focuses on disseminating research and information, as well as to promote discussions regarding international trade and trade cooperation.
The WTO Chairs Programme is part of the WTO's trade related technical assistance programme to enhance the quality and level of participation of developing countries in the multilateral trading system and their ability to benefit from it. It is specifically targeted at academic institutions because they help the WTO raise awareness on trade issues and they form the knowledge base for effective decision-making by policymakers.
In 2010, following a call for tender, the first phase of the WTO Chairs Programme was launched. A total of 15 institutions were awarded a WTO Chair of which 14 are currently operating. In the second phase of the programme, launched in 2014, an additional seven institutions were selected to be part of the existing network. Bilgi University is one of seven universities awarded WTO Chairs in the second phase of the programme. Bilgi University succeeded in a highly competitive selection process, involving 79 academic institutions from around the world. This illustrates the high quality of the proposal submitted by Bilgi University and the excellence of the team headed by Assistant Professor Artiran.
The WTO Chairs Programme provides financial support to beneficiary institutions for a period of four years. The second phase of the Chairs Programme is being funded by the Netherlands. I would therefore also like to take this opportunity to express the WTO's gratitude for this generosity which has allowed the continuation of the programme.
I would like to note that the partnership between the WTO and the academic community in Turkey is not new. Bilgi University has been organizing Regional Trade Policy Courses for Countries from Central Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Caucasus (CEECAC) for some years now. The objective of the RTPC training is to widen participants’ understanding of trade policy matters, the multilateral trading system, international trade law and the functioning of the WTO. RTPCs are co‑delivered by WTO officials, and academics and trade experts from the region. This gives the course a regional focus and relevance for participants and to foster networks among institutions of higher learning and their academics. Last year, twenty‑eight officials from 15 developing countries attended the 2014 Regional Trade Policy Course for CEECAC countries from 4 August to 26 September. This course was well organised and received excellent feedback from its participants. This is the fifth year of the partnership with Istanbul Bilgi University and the Turkish Government.
I therefore see the WTO Chair in Turkey as a continuation of ongoing partnership. You have been able to capitalize from the RTPC's partnership and built up a strong team who will efficiently manage this WTO Chair.
I would also like to take this opportunity to emphasise that technical assistance is naturally related with our Aid-for-Trade agenda and let me reaffirm the importance of this component in our daily activities. In July this year, the Secretariat will organize its fifth global review of the Aid for Trade initiative. The theme is strategic: reducing trade cost for inclusive and sustainable growth. The global review is organised in such a way that all actors dealing with trade policy, either at the national, regional or global level could participate actively to the review encouraging interactions between representatives from countries, the private sector and non-state actors. The Secretariat shall once again organize a specific academic session, as we did during the last review, and I strongly encourage the Chair in Bilgi University to respond to the call for papers.
Turkey's role in the global economy and the WTO
Turkey is the 18th largest economy in the world with an estimated GDP of $813 billion in 2014. Over the past ten years, it has grown on average by 4.3% per annum which is above the global average. Its trade has also grown quite strongly during this period. Turkey is the 32nd largest exporter of merchandise goods, which totalled $152 billion in 2013, and the 22nd largest exporter of commercial services. Its commercial services exports were about $46.3 billion in 2013. As the same time, FDI inflows to Turkey grew more than tenfold from $1.1 billion in 2002 to $12.9 billion in 2013. The European Union is Turkey's largest trade partner as it is the destination of more than 42 percent of Turkish merchandise exports and the source of nearly 37 per cent of its merchandise imports. However, the importance of the EU in Turkey's foreign trade has declined markedly in recent years, reflecting a shift in Turkey's exports towards countries in its neighbourhood, in North Africa, certain CIS countries, and in Asia.
Turkey's economic importance and dynamism is reflected in the leadership role that you play in this region and in the world. Geographically, you are located between Europe and Asia serving as a crossroad between two economically important regions of the world. Turkey has a customs union with the EU and is involved in a number of free trade agreements with many countries around the world, including the European Free Trade area (EFTA) members, Egypt, Republic of Korea, Ukraine, etc.
Turkey is a member of the G-20 which played such a vital role in coordinating the economic policy response to the global economic crisis. It has assumed the G-20 Presidency this year and I am pleased that it has made trade an important item on the G-20 agenda. In the inaugural meeting of the G-20 sherpas, Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan stated that “an open trading system is crucial for the pace and sustainability of global economic growth and an important channel for generating positive spillovers across economies.” Noting that we have been experiencing sub-par growth in global trade, he has rightfully identified the crucial role played by the G20 countries, who account for three quarters of world trade, to boost global trade growth to pre-crisis levels.
Turkey is an old friend of the multilateral trading system having been a contracting party to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade since 17 October 1951 and an original member of the WTO. Within the WTO, Turkey is an active member of the G-33, the “Asian Group of Developing Members”, Friends of A-D Negotiations and “W52” sponsors, reflecting its strong interest in development issues, greater disciplines on the use of anti-dumping, and geographical indications.
I referred to the Doha round of negotiations earlier, which is a more than decade-old process of trade negotiations that seek to improve international trade rules and achieve greater market opening. While the negotiations have been protracted, we have seen greater appetite and ability by WTO members to come to agreement on a number of important issues. In December 2013 for instance, at the Bali Ministerial Conference, members were able to arrive at some valuable decisions, including increased trade preferences for the least developed countries, public stockholding for food security and the Trade Facilitation Agreement, the first multilateral trade agreement since the establishment of the WTO. The Trade Facilitation Agreement contains provisions for faster and more efficient customs procedures as well as technical assistance and capacity building for developing countries. Implementing the Agreement will reduce trade costs and expand trade benefitting major trading nations like Turkey. Our own economists at the WTO Secretariat have estimated that it can help developing countries diversify their exports, enabling them to enter new markets and sell new products. The Agreement will come into force once two thirds of the WTO membership complete their domestic ratification process. As a major player in global trade, Turkey has a huge interest in achieving speedy ratification of the Agreement and in implementing all aspects of the Bali decisions. I would like to take this opportunity to encourage the Government of Turkey to do so. Finally, I look forward to Turkey's support in concluding a detailed road map to tackle the remaining issues of the Doha Development Agenda by July of this year.
In conclusion, let me once again congratulate Assistant Professor Pinar Artiran, the WTO Chair holder, for her hard work and commitment. On behalf of the Director-General Mr Roberto Azevêdo, I have the great pleasure to award a WTO Chair to Bilgi University. Congratulations!