They are based on assumptions that free trade and the abolition of investment rules will lead to economic growth, poverty reduction, higher living standards and employment opportunities. In January 1999, the International And Endes (BBEG) team of the Latin American and Caribbean Office for Sustainable Development of the region approved a grant to the OAS business unit to conduct an evaluation of the existing education and business training infrastructure in the Western Hemisphere, which is relevant for promoting understanding of trade policy issues. The objective of the evaluation was (i) to establish an inventory (database) of various programmes offering trade policy education and/or training activities throughout the hemisphere; (ii) to assess how supply serves demand in the various areas of business training; and (iii) to provide recommendations to the donor community and the OAS on technical assistance to address unsatisfactory needs or to strengthen hemispheric trade education infrastructure. A presentation of the database was presented at the third meeting of the ALEC Small Economies Advisory Group in June. The database was created as part of a package of measures to facilitate business, which will be presented to trade ministers at their November meeting in Toronto. Like other free trade and investment agreements, they are working to lift all restrictions on businesses. The activities of the OAS Technical Assistance Business Units focus on the “training course for government officials on multilateral and regional trade issues for North and South America.” Two intensive courses were held on multilateral trade issues, one for Spanish-speaking participants and one for English-speaking participants. A total of 54 participants from 28 countries in the hemisphere, as well as participants in CARICOM`s Secretariat of the Andean Community and Regional Negotiation Machine (RNM), benefited from the expertise of 50 stakeholders. Speakers and trainers were members of the governments of the Hemisphere, the World Trade Organization, the World Bank, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Organization of American States, Georgetown University and numerous think tanks, law firms and non-governmental organizations. The aim of the policy was to deepen the understanding and methods of trade policy and its formulation, with a focus on the small economies of the hemisphere. In December 1998, India and Sri Lanka signed a free trade agreement, with India agreeing to phase out tariffs on a wide range of Sri Lankan products within three years, while Sri Lanka agreed to lift tariffs on Indian products over an eight-year period. On 8 and 9 July, the OAS trade unit, in collaboration with Costa Rica`s Ministry of Foreign Trade (COMEX), organized a conference entitled “Global Services Trade and the Americas” at the Inter-American Development Institute for Latin American and Caribbean Integration (INTAL).
The conference was held in San Jos, Costa Rica, and brought together Western Hemisphere government negotiators in charge of services negotiations, private service sector executives, representatives of national service coalitions and academics.