January 3, 2007, New Delhi

CUTS International, a leading Jaipur-based research, advocacy and networking public interest non-profit organisation is opening its fourth overseas centre in Hanoi, Vietnam this month.

Among its other overseas centre, the first one was established in Lusaka, Zambia in the year 2000, followed by Nairobi, Kenya in 2002 and London, UK in the year 2003. Reportedly, CUTS is a rare Indian NGO, which has overseas centres.

The purpose of these overseas offices is to promote trilateral development cooperation on a range of trade and economic policy issues, considering the fact that India has excellent diplomatic and commercial relations with these countries and the regions. In fact, these offices also network with many NGOs in the region other than government agencies.

CUTS is currently engaged in many international projects covering these countries. For example a project which looks closely at the impact of trade liberalization on development and poverty (TDP project) being implemented over four years (2005-08) in 15 countries of Asia and Africa, and UK and The Netherlands. The project is being supported by DFID, UK and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Netherlands.

The TDP project has expanded the frontiers in applied research on an issue, which is currently being debated at the WTO, whether trade liberalization results in development or not. The results are a mixed bag, but what certainly show up interestingly are people’s perceptions on such contentious issues and the concomitant lack of a government communication strategy to deal with half truths and untruths. The project results are thus both positive and negative. It is not only trade policy as the subject of this cooperation, but competition policy issues as well.

Writes Gareth Thomas, DFID’s Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State of UK: “We applaud the impact that CUTS has had in raising the profile of competition policy issues in developing countries and, indeed, among the donor community. We value the productive working relationship that CUTS and DFID have built up in recent years on this agenda”.

One of CUTS forte is to promote trilateral development cooperation, which means that a northern donor supports CUTS to implement capacity building projects in developing countries. For example, many projects on trade, investment, and competition law and policy have been done in Africa and Asia. These have been supported by DFID, UK; Governments of Norway and Switzerland, IDRC, Canada, etc.

“The training rendered by CUTS in March, 2006 was extremely useful to us and it was the benchmark for our pace in implementing the competition law of Ethiopia”, writes Mr Wogayehu Gebre Hanna, the Head, Domestic Trade Deptt of the Ethiopian Trade Practice Investigation Commission.

The CUTS Hanoi Centre will be campaigning on a project to build consumer awareness in the Mekong Region countries of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. The DFID office in Vietnam is negotiating a project on Making Markets Work for the Poor in Vietnam. CUTS is providing technical assistance to the Vietnamese Competition Authority over 2007-09 with support from the Government of Switzerland.

“We especially appreciate the profound knowledge and experience that international high profile experts from CUTS which were shared with us as part of the capacity building (7Up2) project implemented in Vietnam. I hope that VCAD will have more chances to work with CUTS in the next steps of the project”, testifies Dr Dinh Thi My Loan, Director of Vietnam Competition Administration Deptt.