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  • Moving goods across borders
    In addition to tariffs and non-tariff barriers imposed by their trading partners, exporters from developing countries often have to tackle domestic constraints, such as weak customs procedures or onerous administrative processes. Small and Medium-size Enterprises (SMEs) suffer disproportionately from these measures. Even while governments and business representatives work together to overcome these challenges, in the longer term, ITC’s new trade facilitation programme assists trade support institutions and SMEs in getting their goods across borders faster and cheaper. We do this by facilitating tangible changes that reduce exporting bottlenecks. 


    ITC’s new trade facilitation programme aims to enable SME exporters in a select group of Least Developed Countries to increase their exports to neighbouring countries by reducing or eliminating trade impediments at the border, both at the point of exit and entry. 

    ITC’s Work in Trade Facilitation

    ITC’s Trade Facilitation Programme Strategy 2012-2015 (TFPS) aims to increase the competitiveness of the private sector by building export capacity, reducing trade transaction costs and deepening regional integration through trade facilitation measures.

    The TFPS responds to four (4) ITC strategic objectives:

    1. Improving the availability and use of trade intelligence by promoting “formal” cross-border trade through targeted trade facilitation solutions.
    2. Enhancing trade support institutions (TSIs) and policies for the benefit of exporting enterprises and trade facilitation service providers, through advice and solutions to comply with established cross border formalities and industry protocols.
    3. Strengthening export capacity of enterprises to respond to market opportunities by way of customised trade facilitation measures to meet cross border formalities and overcome non-tariff measures and
    4. Mainstreaming inclusiveness and sustainability into trade promotion and export development by using trade facilitation measures to create a more enabling business environment for women informal cross borders traders to aid their transition to the formal sector.

    Implementation of the TFPS is focussed on two areas:

    • supporting exporting SMEs to comply with customs, border, and transit formalities and
    • developing private sector capacity in trade facilitation and trade logistics services to support exporters’ compliance with international requirements.
      ITC works with TSIs to produce Technical Assistance Guidelines for SME cross-border traders, increasing their knowledge of their customs-related obligations and rights.



    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 currently 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.

    Advisory Services

    ITC delivers its trade facilitation work through the following:

    ITC Trade Facilitation Solutions


    1. Business Environment Trade Facilitation (BETF) Improvement Solution: a modular toolkit of customised trade facilitation solutions to assist countries to diagnose and resolve procedural obstacles and inefficiencies in their trade related business environment.
    2. Access to Finance (A2F) Facility for Trade Facilitation: a financial coaching and trade facilitation programme for agricultural exporters in selected export logistics chains in targeted countries.
    3. Trade Facilitation, Gender and the Informal Economy Programme: a diagnostic and capacity building programme for designing and implementing trade facilitation measures that reflect a gender sensitive lens at country and regional levels. This programme complements ITC’s successful Women in Trade Programme, which seeks to integrate women SMEs in global supply chains.



    ITC works with TSIs to develop training programmes for SME exporters (e.g. informal womencross-border traders) on increasing their knowledge of their cross-border trade obligations and rights and on how to access those rights.
     To read more about our trade facilitation project aiming at Ugandan cross-border traders, click here.


    ITC’s new trade facilitation programme is launching two projects in 2011 to improve the pace of trade:
    • Creating a favourable business environment for women exporters and informal cross-border traders: We are developing training modules on the legal rights of women SME and informal exporters under the East Africa Customs Protocol and will disseminate the modules through TSIs, including customs agencies in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Sudan. We will also produce guidelines for TSIs to effectively assist women SMEs and informal cross-border traders in East Africa and beyond. To read more about our trade facilitation project aiming at Ugandan cross-border traders, click here.

    • Streamlining of export processing procedures in the agriculture and agro-processing sectors to improve access to markets: ITC will identify home country constraints and costs that reduce the competitiveness of SMEs in selected agricultural and agro-processing sectors in Least Developed Countries in Africa and Asia. We will prepare proposals to amend the regulatory framework in support of these exporters, but will also work with TSIs to identify concrete, implementable solutions that will quickly lead to the reduction of transaction costs to SME-s.