A review of the dozen TPFs conducted to date reveals


A review of the dozen TPFs conducted to date
reveals that while there are some respects in which
developing countries’ circumstances and challenges
are comparable, there is also a great deal of diversity
in their experiences and prospects. It would be
a fool’s errand to try to derive a single set of onesize-fits-all set of recommendations, and even if one
attempted to do so, it would not be resolved solely
through a review of the existing TPFs. The wide range
of perspectives on the role of trade in development
in these analyses can be appreciated by contrasting
those prepared for Algeria, the Dominican Republic
and Panama. They suggest differences in the present
predicaments of the countries subject to these
reviews and distinct points of view on how countries
should devise their strategies.
Consider the different approaches taken to that most
fundamental question, the sectoral composition of
the economy and the transition from the primary to
the secondary and tertiary sectors. Even in some
countries where services already predominate, the
TPFs collectively suggest that there is still a place for
the agricultural sector and its further development.
The TPF for Panama argued that the incorporation
of new technology is critical to increase agricultural
production and export capacity. “This should go hand
in hand with efforts to train and adapt producers
and to certify production processes and sanitary
processes in compliance with international measures,”
according to the TPF, and “[n]etworks of agricultural
producers can be instrumental to generate scale,
for example in pooling resources and production

 Similarly, the Dominican Republic has lately
experienced significant growth in its exports of primary
goods, especially for products such as bananas and
other fruits, vegetables and cocoa. That reliance on
primary products has aided the Dominican Republic
in adjusting to the challenges that stemmed from the
dismantling of the textile quota system under the WTO
Agreement on Textiles and Clothing.
Just as there is no single formula for the sectoral evolution of developing countries, so too is there no single
formula for how they ought to structure their trade policies. The evidence suggests that the more successful
countries reach many and deep trade agreements, but
it does not necessarily follow that all of their success
can be traced back to those agreements, or that all
other developing countries ought to emulate their strategies. The TPF for Panama lauded the decisions made
in the 1990s to integrate the country into the multilateral trading system, and then to negotiate a network of
bilateral agreements. The main need, according to this
analysis, was to undertake trade negotiation initiatives
to consider additional opportunities in different markets (e.g. in Asia and the Caribbean), and to take steps
to ensure that the country took full advantage of the
opportunities created by its openness. Even so, that
same report found that Panamanian exports increased
faster to non-FTA partners than they did to FTA partners. The TPF for Algeria likewise recommended that
export promotion should be made a national priority,
but favoured a more cautious approach to international
commitments and a notably larger role for the State.
While it called for completion of the country’s WTO accession, the TPF also suggested that a government
council should set credible and quantified export targets, using such incentives as are still permitted by
WTO rules (e.g. with respect to research and development, specialized banks, interest rate subsidies, tax
relief). The report favoured public policies to promote
import-substitution sectors and products. It also advocated the use of safeguards on behalf of infant industries and the establishment of a special incentive
system that focuses on value addition and compliance
with standards. The TPF also called for the banking
system to reserve special support for the export sector
by creating a specialized export bank.
In short, the views expressed in TPFs can be as varied as the developing countries themselves. The challenges that these countries face each show their own
characteristics, and that fact should be reflected in the
analysis and recommendations of each TPF. While this
chapter thus does not attempt to define best practices in trade and development per se, it does offer
guidance on the best practices that countries should
follow in the research and analysis that they conduct
when deciding which paths are right for them.
For those same reasons, the research and writing of
a TPF is a complex and nuanced process that cannot
be reduced to a simple recipe. Every country’s circumstances are special to some degree, and unique in
others, and so the researcher must adapt to those circumstances. That said, there are some final guidelines
that can be presented here in the form of checklists.
Checklist 1 concerns the most fundamental questions
that should be asked with respect to every country
that is subject to the TPF exercise. Each study should
begin by defining those characteristics of a country
that cannot be changed, or at least cannot be
shifted rapidly, and hence define the challenges and
opportunities that are available to policymakers.

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