Costa Rica National University launches activities under WTO Chairs Programme

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

A high-level event on 28 June formally launched the activities of the Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica under the WTO Chairs Programme (WCP). Professor Rosmery Hernández and her interdisciplinary team of experts in international relations, business, and trade were chosen to take part in the WCP after a selective and competitive process involving 126 applications from academic institutions in developing and least developed countries (LDCs).
Speaking at the event, Mr. Manuel Tovar, Minister of Foreign Trade of Costa Rica, said that the Universidad Nacional and the Costa Rican government share a long-standing relationship, having worked together on different activities related to trade policy seminars. 
"Our Ministry supported the University's candidacy for this Programme, which prospered on its own merit, highlighting the work which it has carried out for many years through the generation and dissemination of knowledge geared towards civil society," said Minister Tovar.
Deputy Director-General Anabel González highlighted that one of the Programme's goals is to create a network of global trade experts and enlarge the knowledge frontiers on WTO related issues. "The Chairs network gives governments access to expert assistance and research within their own countries and in collaboration with other academics who ensure that a regional and cross-regional perspective are included in the knowledge produced. I would like to stress that this kind of cooperation is the backbone of the work done at the WTO," said DDG González.
The event also marked the launch of the Chair's Trade Policy Think Tank which includes members from government, academia, and businesses. Several representatives from this Think Tank, including from the Chamber of International Trade, the Chamber of Technology and Sciences, and other stakeholders, participated during a roundtable discussion on the rise of digital trade and its opportunities and challenges, along with experts from the WIPO.
The WCP launch  in Costa Rica came at  an important moment for the WTO, following the successful conclusion of the 12th Ministerial Conference which took place on 12-17 June, were members secured an unprecedented package of outcomes.
"Having just finished negotiating this package, I can attest to the vital importance that experts and tailored research and advice provide to delegations in the negotiating process – this is what the WCP was created to facilitate," said Ambassador Gloria Abraham Peralta of Costa Rica, chair of the WTO Agriculture Negotiations.
The donors of the Programme, represented by France and Austria, also attended the launch. Ms. Cassandre Nonque, Deputy Head of International Trade & Investment Rules Unit at the Ministry of the Economy and Finance of France, expressed her country's support for the WCP and the activities in Costa Rica. "The work of the Chairs, experts in the field, will encourage political decision makers to think outside the box and facilitate the endorsement of innovative positions that will lead us to concrete results at the WTO," she said.
Ms. Cynthia Zimmermann, Director-General of Austria’s Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs, noted that in order to fully and effectively participate in discussions at the multilateral level, it is crucial that developing and LDC members have access to technical support and relevant analysis of issues that are of most interest to them. "The WTO and other international institutions can provide some of this support. However, I am convinced that nothing can replace tailor-made expertise developed domestically at universities and research institutions in various WTO members," she said.
Mr. Francisco Gonzalez, Rector of the Universidad Nacional and Mr. Ronald Saborio, Member of the WCP Academic Advisory Board congratulated Professor Hernández and her team for their outstanding achievement. They join a network which includes seven other Chairs in Latin America and 36 Chairs in total. The growing network provides the opportunity for collaboration on issues of priority for the region and the WTO membership, including further economic and trade integration.
The first year of activities under the WCP in Costa Rica will focus on several key topics in their research, including the impact of the pandemic on small and medium enterprises in Central America and the importance of digital trade in ensuring their survival and resilience.
The event concluded with a roundtable discussion among the Chairs from Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, and Costa Rica on the current challenges confronting international trade.