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24.04.2008 General News

Switzerland Supports Bio Trade

By ISD  (Elorm Ametepe & Gilbert Ankrah)
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Switzerland has earmarked $3.4 million to support the second phase of the Bio Trade Facilitation Programme (BTFP II) launched in Accra last tuesday.

The Swiss Minister for Trade Promotion, SECO, Mr Hans-Peter Egler, who announced this yesterday at the ongoing United Nations Conference on Trade and Development UNCTAD XII, also disclosed that part of the funds will go into a country programme in Vietnam.

The Swiss Minister said further feasibility studies have been planned in Colombia and Indonesia which could lead to biotrade country programmes in these countries.

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Mr Egler noted, does not only address ecological concerns, but also supports economic development of the South and help with poverty alleviation.

The second and third objective of CBD is its quest for sustainable use of biological diversity and fair and equitable sharing of the benefits accrued from the biodiversity resources, the minister said.

Switzerland and the Netherlands have therefore, supported UNCTAD's Bio Trade Facilitation Programme (BTFP) from 2003 to 2007 with an amount of $2.5 million each, Mr Egler said.  He said Switzerland has additionally committed $3 million for national biotrade programmes in Peru and Bolivia, while the Netherlands has supported a country programme in Uganda.     

Mr Egler recalled that in 2006, an external evaluation confirmed the innovative character of the biotrade programme and its market potential, and recommended its activities to be scaled-up and expanded to other countries.

As a result, a group of donors from Switzerland, Netherlands and Denmark, and multilateral institutions, like UNCTAD, IFC and ITC together with biotrade institutions from partner countries and the Swiss and Dutch import promotion agencies structured the new phase of the Bio Trade Facilitation Programme.

He said UNCTAD will further shape and promote the concept of biotrade, continue to organise knowledge exchanges between country programmes, initiate new country programmes and lobby the North for market access to biotrade products.

Prof Arsene Balihutu, Uganda's Permanent Ambassador in Geneva, said the rising consumer pattern in developed countries provides immense opportunity for developing countries and least developed countries to trade in biodiversity products.

He noted that biotrade was not new to the world and cited Uganda, where biotrade in the past diminished the rhinoceros population and the country had to struggle to rare the animals zoos. Prof Balihutu said differences between what prevailed and now was biotrade that could be more regulated and appealing to consumer preferences in developed countries.        

Ambassador Balihutu emphasised the need to ensure that communities living near these biodiversity resources be able to use these resources to improve and reduce poverty in their areas.  'As we do biotrade, we should focus on the fact that local communities near and who own these resources derive maximum benefit from the trade so that their welfare is improved', he said.

Prof Balihutu appealed to UNCTAD to help LDCs counter some of the non tariff measures put in place by developing countries, describing them as unilateral and also kicked against bio piracy.

Other panelist at the meeting were Hon Nelson Gaggawala, Minister of State for Trade, Uganda, Mr Gonzalo Guitierrez, Vice-Minister for foreign affairs. Also present was UNCTAD Secretary-General, Mr Supachai Panitchpakdi.

The Programme which assists developing countries benefit from sustainable use of biodiversity.


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