The Aid for Trade (AfT) initiative was one of the most important development-related outcomes of the 2005 World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference that was held in Hong Kong. It targets developing countries, particularly Least-developed Countries (LDCs), to strengthen their productive capacities, trade-related infrastructure capacity to compete in regional and global markets.
This global initiative was launched to reinforce commitments by both multilateral and bilateral development partners to prioritize trade capacity development support and by beneficiaries to adopt trade reforms as a key pillar for sustainable growth and poverty reduction strategies.
Since 2005, the AfT initiative has taken off in most of the world’s developing regions, with a phenomenal increase in aid for trade flows, technical assistance, and capacity support, as reported by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). But the Arab region (22 states) has remained largely on the sidelines. Nonetheless, these countries share the same challenges as many developing countries from other regions in the world.
To address this situation, the Qatar and Egypt Permanent Missions to the WTO, UN Office and Specialized Institutions in Geneva, requested the Islamic Development Bank Group (IsDB) Group to develop an AfT Road Map for the Arab region.
From this perceptive and since 2010, the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC), member of the IsDB Group, initiated an extensive consultation process through several meetings in Beirut, Geneva, Cairo and Doha, to discuss and reach a consensus on the main elements of an Aid-for-Trade Road Map for the Arab region.
Several organizations and partners participated in the consultative process, notably :
Based on inputs from this consultation process a program document on the “Aid for Trade Initiative for the Arab States (AfTIAS) Program was prepared in 2012.
The AfTIAS Program was designed to provide a framework for placing Arab countries and the region on a sound trajectory of trade reform under the auspices of the AfT initiative.
From this perspective, the 1st Phase of the AfTIAS Program (AfTIAS 1.0) was designed and launched by ITFC on behalf of the IsDB Group in November 2013.