Multi-Lateral Summaries > United Nations Economic and Social Commission For Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP)

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) is the regional development arm of the United Nations for the Asia-Pacific region. With a membership of 62 Governments, 58 of which are in the region, and a geographical scope that stretches from Turkey in the west, to the Pacific island nation of Kiribati in the east, and from the Russian Federation in the north to New Zealand in the south, ESCAP is the largest regional commission in terms of membership. It is also the largest United Nations body serving the Asia-Pacific region, with over 600 staff.

Established in 1947 with its headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand, ESCAP seeks to overcome some of the region’s greatest challenges. It carries out work in the following areas:

ESCAP focuses on issues that are most effectively addressed through regional cooperation, including:

  • Issues that all or a group of countries in the region face and for which it is necessary to learn from each other;
  • Issues that benefit from regional or multi-country involvement;
  • Issues that are trans-boundary in nature, or that would benefit from collaborative inter-country approaches;
  • Issues that are of a sensitive or emerging nature, and require further advocacy and negotiation.

ESCAP’s mandate is to promote economic and social development in the Asian and Pacific region by fostering cooperation between its members and associate members. The organization’s objective in the area of trade and investment, as defined in its Strategic Framework for the biennium 2012-2013 approved by the General Assembly, is to promote trade, investment and transfer of technology for inclusive and sustainable development in the Asia-Pacific region.

TCB-related programme

The organization is mandated to undertake trade capacity building through Commission Resolution 62/6 of 12 April 2006 on managing globalization through strengthened regional cooperation in trade and investment, and Commission Resolution 60/1 of 28 April 2004 on the Shanghai Declaration.

To achieve its objective, ESCAP’s sub-programme on trade and investment supports the efforts of ESCAP members and associate members to develop the capacity, institutions, and legal and regulatory frameworks necessary to participate more effectively and competitively in international trade and investment activities. The sub-programme assists countries in strengthening trade and investment policy regimes through issue-specific and practical trade policy research and analysis, training, exchange of experiences, provision of information and toolkits, integrated regional programmes, targeted advice and regional consensus-building, including multi-stakeholder policy dialogues.

It aims to achieve: (i) increased capacity of ESCAP member States to formulate and implement more effective and coherent policies on trade, investment and enterprise development; (ii) strengthened regional cooperation and integration mechanisms in trade and investment; (iii) increased capacity of ESCAP member States to formulate and implement policies and strategies for sustainable economic development and rural poverty reduction through agro-technology transfer and agro-based enterprise development; and (iv) strengthened capacity to promote national innovative systems and create an enabling environment for technology transfer to address regional and global development challenges.

The main beneficiaries are government officials from UNESCAP members and associate members, particularly LDCs, LLDCs, and countries with economies in transition, as well as small island developing States (SIDS), in the Asia and Pacific region.

The following impacts have been achieved:

  • Additional countries in the region have made progress towards accession to WTO and the Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement.
  • There has been an increase in member countries’ national capacity to effectively negotiate, conclude and implement multilateral and other trade arrangements supporting the internationally-agreed development goals.
  • More relevant and quality trade-related research and policy recommendations have been made available to policymakers and other stakeholders in the region.
  • There has been deeper integration among the member countries of the Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA).

The generic draft national framework for technology and innovation has raised awareness and increased knowledge in developing indigenous technology, and some member countries have shown strong interest in follow-up activities that can further enhance their national capacities for developing indigenous technologies. The sharing of knowledge and expertise through government-business dialogues in general (e.g. the Asia-Pacific Business Forum) has contributed to member countries’ progress in achieving the MDGs. The work in the areas of agro-export competitiveness and access to regional markets through the promotion of trade was recognized by the Commission at its 63rd session for its contribution to addressing the needs of the rural agricultural sector in the developing member countries. Three working groups have been established and are actively involved in increasing the government-business dialogue and developing action plans to promote SMEs’ participation in global and regional supply chains in the Greater Mekong Subregion.

Successful Projects

Successful TCB activities are:

(i) Asia-Pacific Research and Training Network on Trade (ARTNeT), an open regional network composed of leading trade research institutions across the region, that aims to equip the region with a mechanism for enhancing the capacity of research institutions; (ii) WTO/ESCAP technical assistance programmes for government officials to develop increased knowledge and awareness of issues related to accession to WTO, implementation of WTO agreements and commitments and/or issues related to negotiations within the framework of the Doha Development Agenda; and (iii) launching of the United Nations Network of Experts for Paperless Trade in Asia and the Pacific (UNNExT).


In carrying out work related to trade capacity building, UNESCAP has developed partnerships with the following organizations:

  • ADB
  • The European Community
  • The Secretariat of the Integration Committee of the Eurasian Economic Community
  • UNDP
  • WTO

In addition, ESCAP’s joint initiative with the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and a number of national research institutions led to the launch of the Asia-Pacific Research and Training Network on Trade (ARTNeT) in 2004.

For more information:

TCB activities in this guide


  • Asia-Pacific Research and Training Network on Trade (ARTNeT)
  • Asia-Pacific Trade and Investment Report (APTIR)
  • Capacity building for evidence-based trade policymaking
  • Asia-Pacific Trade and Investment Agreements Database (APTIAD)
  • Strengthening the Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA)


  • WTO/UNESCAP technical assistance programme


  • Facilitating the effective integration of Asia-Pacific SMEs in the global value chains
  • Increasing the contribution of business to sustainable development
  • Foreign direct investment
  • Technology transfer and promotion of national innovation systems


  • United Nations Network of Experts for Paperless Trade in Asia and the Pacific (UNNExT)
  • Asia-Pacific Trade Facilitation Forum
  • Trade facilitation advisory services
  • Regional Organizations Cooperation Mechanism on Trade Facilitation (ROC-TF)
  • Trade facilitation research and publications.
  • Strengthening Capacities of Asian Developing Countries to Increase Intra-regional Trade by Implementing Paperless Trade and Transport Facilitation Systems
  • Strengthening the Capacity of Developing and Transition Economies to Link to Global Supply Chains through the Reduction of Trade Obstacles
  • Network for Knowledge Transfer on Sustainable Agriculture Technologies and Improved Market Linkages in South and Southeast Asia (SATNET Asia)


  • Regional Cooperation for moving up the value chain in textile and clothing
  • The emergence of the services sector