The International Trade Centre (ITC), headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, is the joint technical cooperation agency of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Since 1964, the International Trade Centre has helped developing and transition economies achieve sustainable development through exports — activating, supporting and delivering projects with an emphasis on achieving competitiveness. It does this by providing trade-development services to the private sector, trade support institutions and policymakers, and by working with national, regional and international bodies.
The organization has two original and mutually reinforcing functions embedded in the expression of its mandate – “export impact for good”:
- The affiliation with the WTO awards ITC the role of helping its client countries to benefit from the opportunities created by the WTO framework.
- As a UN development organization, ITC’s role is to promote the fulfillment of the Millennium Development Goals.
ITC contributes to countries building national ownership for their export development. Their goals and objectives must be aligned to a national vision for development. Commitments in this respect are developed and owned by countries on the basis of their historical, political and economic circumstances. ITC’s aim is to enhance the capacity of entrepreneurship to put innovation into practice and to contribute to progress in society.
ITC’s mission is to enable small business export success in developing and transition-economy countries, by providing, with partners, sustainable and inclusive development solutions to the private sector, trade support institutions and policymakers.
ITC’s work programme, organized around five strategic objectives, is fully aligned with Aid for Trade – the main vehicle for governments to achieve some of their development aspirations through trade policy and investment. These objectives are building awareness, strengthening Trade Support Institutions (TSIs), enhancing policies, supporting enterprises, and mainstreaming inclusiveness and sustainability.
The first objective is about raising awareness and addressing market failure caused by the lack of trade information and transparency in developing and transition economies. It is also concerned with the availability of trade intelligence to stakeholders in developing countries. In this area, ITC makes a major contribution by producing a series of internationally recognized tools and trade databases and empowering clients to use these tools. ITC also provides thought leadership in trade promotion and trade information by improving the relevance and impact of the analysis it produces and the events it organizes.
TSIs are instrumental in the fulfilment of ITC’s mandate, given the organization’s limited presence in the field. ITC’s approach to TSI strengthening includes:
- Investing in the development of generic tools to measure and improve the internal functioning of TSIs and the services they provide to enterprises;
- Providing customised services tailored to the circumstances of individual TSIs, in order to better serve their exporting clients;
- Taking a holistic and multidisciplinary approach at the sector level, to improve the institutional infrastructure related to trade in a country or region. Typically, the methodology is to empower competent TSIs to address bottlenecks along a particular value chain for export competitiveness.
To enhance policy formulation in developing and transition economies, ITC focuses on deepening its work in the field of export strategy, helping countries become more nimble in the fast-changing multilateral trading environment. ITC continues to support LDCs in the WTO accession process. While demand for ITC previously focused on multilateral trade negotiations, this has shifted towards enhancing policies on export development issues. As a result, ITC has been engaged in a series of projects to help TSIs in developing countries to better evaluate and communicate the implications of trade agreements — potential threats and opportunities — to the business sector. In terms of export strategy, which is one of ITC’s flagship solutions, the organization has deepened its support beyond development of the strategy itself. This work has broadened to include more systematic capacity building and coaching in the implementation of export strategies. This approach produces a greater sense of ownership of the strategy by beneficiary countries. From a value-chain perspective, this is important because it allows for strategies that maximize the value that is added in-region.
Ultimately, it is the business sector that generates development value through exports. ITC works with enterprises either directly or through TSIs. Direct intervention and coaching is the first approach to supporting enterprises. ITC has concentrated this type of tailor-made support on women-owned labour-intensive enterprises with high export potential.
The second approach is to support multiple enterprises along a single value chain. Most often, this approach is aimed at improving strategic segments in the value chain and, again, relies on building the capacity of competent TSIs in the country or region where the project takes place.
ITC builds enterprise capacity on a wider scale through worldwide programmes targeting specific skills required for global business competitiveness. This approach relies on partner TSIs playing the role of distributors and amplifiers of ITC’s services, while ITC’s role centres on managing the network and on quality assurance issues, maximizing the multiplier effect.
Mainstreaming inclusiveness and sustainability
ITC’s mission is wholly focused on delivering sustainable and inclusive export development solutions to its clients. Since export growth does not automatically translate into human development and is therefore not an end in itself, ITC works to integrate sustainable development objectives into its TRTA activities. In recent years, ITC has taken a proactive stance focused on two main areas:
- The development of projects focused on gender, youth, poverty or environmental issues, the main dimensions of inclusiveness and sustainability. As with other ITC projects, these are projects that develop support processes, but also focus on a particular target population from a sustainable development perspective.
- The second approach is the systematic mainstreaming of sustainability and inclusiveness across all ITC activities, including all development projects and internal processes. ITC’s Women and Trade programme has led the way in this area, with progressive application of the ITC gender policy adopted in 2010.
ITC attaches great importance to partnerships, through which ITC’s mandate of enabling export success in developing countries can be accomplished. Partnerships permeate ITC programmes, and effective management of these relationships requires collaboration, consultation, management of potential conflicts of interest, and dealing with different capacities and levels of commitment.
ITC works in partnership with the following organizations at the national and regional levels: enterprises, trade-related government departments, trade and industry associations, national trade promotion agencies, chambers of commerce, commodity organizations, small enterprise development agencies, commercial banks and other trade financing institutions, standards boards, packaging institutes, management institutes for training trade managers, tender boards and central purchasing institutions, state-owned corporations, purchasing and supply management associations, and regional organizations specialized in selected trade and marketing functions.
Partnerships are defined with ITC’s parent organizations, UNCTAD and the WTO, in several operational areas, projects and programmes. In addition, ITC is also instrumental in other key partnerships, such as the Enhanced Integrated Framework for Trade-Related Technical Assistance to Least Developed Countries (EIF), a multi-agency, multi-donor programme, which includes the participation of the IMF, UNCTAD, UNDP, the World Bank and the WTO.
TCB activities in this guide
- Awareness of new issues in international trade
- Strategies for export development
- The private sector in trade policy
- Increasing capacity for trade policy formulation
- Legal aspects of foreign trade
- Non-Tariff Measures
- Export-led sector development
- Exporter competitiveness
- Modular Learning System on Supply Chain Management
- Standards and quality management
- Strengthening Trade Support Institutions
- Trade intelligence
- Reducing transaction costs for business
- Trade finance
- Access to finance
- OIF-ITC initiative n South-South cooperation
- Africa’s Cotton Initiative