By Kamisha Redhead
My biggest self-improvement decision to date was applying for the Masters in International Trade Policy (MITP) Programme at the Cave Hill Campus, University of the West Indies’ Shridath Ramphal Centre for International Trade Law, Policy, and Services (SRC).
I am still astounded by how quickly the months have passed. My initial impression of the MITP program’s preparatory steps was of an easy and hands-on application procedure, particularly the same-day phone and email responses, and timely information and precise program schedules from the administration. As a prospective student, the degree of support, as well as my burning desire to build multi-dimensional skill sets, were some of the elements that drove my decision to pursue the program.
When classes began, despite the diverse professional, cultural, and geographic backgrounds of our cohort (Cohort 20), as well as each student’s personal obligations and hectic daily schedules, we soon formed a resilient group that looked out for one another. In addition to this dynamic, our MITP lecturers ensured that we adhered to the university’s ethos and provided us with the support we required to successfully complete the MITP program.
Fast-forward to the months of May – June 2023 when we would embark on the Study Tour component of the MITP – a two-week trip to Geneva to Switzerland. Our first meet-up was adrenaline-charged as each student’s arrival into Barbados as our starting point, was met with hugs and excitement.
We settled comfortably into Geneva, Switzerland. The first week of the Study tour entailed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit numerous CARICOM and OECS missions. This was indeed a major high point for all as the experience allowed us to apply the theoretical knowledge, we had acquired from the 7 months of coursework in MITP to actual international trade policy. We were tasked with accompanying our assigned ambassadors and mission representatives to various WTO negotiations and workshops such as those on e-commerce and the moratorium on digital goods. As a budding trade expert from a Small Island Developing State (SIDS), this hands-on experience was awe-inspiring, as it brought into focus the benefits of the moratorium and the implications of non-renewal for SMEs and women entrepreneurs in particular. Moreover, e-commerce consumer protection and the digital divide were also themes of the conversation as well as the content of electronic transmission and its characterization of goods and services. Having firsthand knowledge of developing countries’ views on moratoriums’ effects on development, fiscal implications, and customs duties on electronically transmitted digital goods allowed me to apply these considerations to OECS developing countries, taking into account our financial and infrastructural constraints. Despite our size differences and vulnerabilities as fragile developing states, our concerns about the moratorium’s impact on e-commerce growth and development were identical.
The first week of the tour provided me with the opportunity to interact with and understand the CARICOM missions’ work and their representative’s journey to ambassadorship. This interaction illuminated SIDS’s various constraints, including size, trade share, susceptibility to exogenous shocks like climate change, constrained economic base, and global commodity market volatility. I saw the many economic and export diversification prospects for our region despite these limitations. As a future trade specialist, I wish to champion my region’s viewpoint like the CARICOM missions. Another highlight of week one of the study tour was shadowing Ms. Allison St. Bryce, Charge’d Affaires of the Trinidad and Tobago Permanent Mission and MITP graduate (Cohort 19). As part of Trinidad and Tobago’s team, I attended small group fisheries subsidy negotiations and watched diverse negotiation methods, talents, and styles in action. My favourite MITP course was INTR 6007—International Negotiation and Advocacy—because I like international trade negotiations. I was also concerned about overfishing/overcapacity growing up in Grenada’s fishing village of Gouyave. I also attended several WTO, UNCTAD, ITC, WIPO, ILO, and Geneva Graduate Institute sessions that week. All were aimed to expose and educate us as future trade experts on several trade-related topics.
In the second week of the study tour, we participated in the 2023 inaugural Joint University Study Tour (JUST) which is aimed at providing masters students with the real-world exposure necessary to nexus the practical and theoretical gaps and to understand and experience the functions of the WTO and the multilateral trading system.
During the JUST week, I joined other trade students from universities and countries such as (South Africa, Ethiopia, Tunisia, the Netherlands, Canada and the United Kingdom) to name a few.
During that week, I was able to fulfil my wish of meeting the trailblazing, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the WTO’s first female, Director General, who holds an illustrious career spanning over four decades on many continents.
I found her to be extremely passionate about youth empowerment and climate change, which are also areas of particular interest to me and my country Grenada. Currently, my small island like many others within the region continues to be decimated by accelerated coastal erosion due to rising sea levels as well as persistent shocks to the highly dependent and endangered tourism industry. It is for this reason, that I embarked on investigating the research topic “The Impact of Climate Change Mitigation Policies on Grenada’s Trade Initiatives” as part of my master’s program requirement. Similarly, youth empowerment in Grenada continues to be challenged due to high levels of youth unemployment. As a trade professional and future ambassador for my region, I look forward to developing policies that will find innovative ways to combine viable climate-smart practices and productivity within the sectors of agriculture and tourism. This will in turn bridge climate change and high unemployment issues and foster youth empowerment and development. Moreover, in the session with the WTO’s Director General, the WTO’s objectives of improving living standards and supporting sustainable development for SIDS were emphasized along with an outlook of the future of international trade and the organization’s ongoing negotiations. That evening a JUST TOUR welcome reception was hosted by the JUST organizers including the SRC which created the JUST Study Tour.
After learning more about trade in developing countries at UNCTAD later that week, I went to the (WIPO) and came away convinced that our region needs a stronger legal and regulatory framework, as well as patent entities, to protect its creative properties. classmates were also given the chance to ask the panelists questions, so I took advantage of this along with my classmates and asked a question on the intellectual property (IP) component of trademarks and IP protection.
The next day was filled with in-depth discussions at Geneva’s Graduate Institute. During these seminars, I liked getting hands-on experience with the cutting-edge technological aids used to simulate talks between NGOs and other groups and to explore the role of artificial intelligence in international trade.
My time on the MITP Geneva Study Tour was beneficial; I learned a great deal about various aspects of international trade and also developed the many transferable skills necessary for a successful career in this field.