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    Non-tariff measures (NTMs) present the greatest challenge to developing country exporters, particularly to Small and Medium-size Enterprises (SMEs) in the agriculture and agribusiness sectors. In addition to barriers from importing countries, exporters also face domestic constraints: weak customs procedures and cumbersome administrative processes. ITC assist governments and business to work together to address these problems and amend the regulatory framework, thereby improving the pace of trade. We define technical assistance from the perspective of SME exporters, rather than looking at the needs of governments and the public sector as the starting point. 


    ITC’s new trade facilitation programme aims to enable SME exporters, especiallz those in Least Developed Countries and Landlocked Developing Countries to increase their exports by reducing or eliminating trade impediments at the border, both at the point of exit and entry.

    The average trade transaction involves more than 200 elements of data, according to a recent report by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). There are as many as 30 different participants (brokers, banks etc.) in the average cross-border transaction, generating up to 40 separate documents, with each one requiring manual preparation and processing in a paper-based environment.

    Trade facilitation reduces the complexity and cost of the trade transaction process, ensuring that trade activities take place in an efficient, predictable manner, based on internationally accepted norms, standards and best practices. For more information on issues of concern see the World Bank’s recently updated report "Connecting to Compete – Trade Logistics in the Global Economy". 

    Data and Research

    With tariff levels falling, NTMs are becoming the largest impediment to the trade of agro-based products, according to preliminary results of ITC’s enterprise level surveys, conducted in 30 countries in 2010-2012. 
     NTMs vary across countries and products, and often change quickly and with little notice. Businesses need to comply with a wide range of requirements, including technical regulations, product standards and customs procedures. The business sector in developing countries often lacks the information, capabilities, and facilities needed to meet the NTMs complex requirements and demonstrate compliance at reasonable costs. National policy makers often lack a clear picture of what their business sector perceives as predominant obstacles to trade, and this makes it difficult to develop appropriate trade-related policies.
    ITC aims to increase transparency and understanding of NTMs. ITC and its national partners are conducting surveys in 30 developing countries, interviewing 200-600 businesses in each country about the most important NTM obstacles that they face in their daily operations. For more information, see our page on the NTM survey and preliminary results.
    The business perspective on NTMs is crucial to identifying and defining national strategies and policies that will overcome obstacles to trade. Exporters and importers have to deal with NTMs on a day-to-day basis, and they know best about the specific challenges and problems they face. Governments can better define needs for concrete action when they understand businesses’ key concerns regarding NTMs.

    Advisory Services

    ITC works with TSIs and governments to review and improve the current regulatory and institutional framework in order to facilitate trade for SME exporters, including a group not currently served by other agencies - e.g. women informal cross-border traders.

    As part of the project aimed at reducing trade impediments at the border, ITC can:

    • assist in the design and implementation of "One-Stop-Window" programmes at the border, simplifying customs and border procedures and paperwork;
    • assist with the development and implementation of Integrity Action Plans based on the Revised Arusha Declaration


    ITC does not currently provide training services in this area.


    In 2011, ITC will work with selected Least Developed Countries in Africa and Asia on streamlining export processing procedures in the agriculture and agro-processing sectors.  
     We will identify home country constraints and costs that reduce the competitiveness of SMEs in selected agricultural and agro-processing sectors. While working with TSIs on identifying concrete, implementable solutions that will lead to the reduction of transaction costs to SMEs, we will also prepare proposals to amend the regulatory framework in support of these exporters. To read more about our trade facilitation project aimed at Ugandan women informal cross-border traders, click here.
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