Global Advocacy - ITC

Global Advocacy - ITC

Information dated: 2017

Ms. Aicha Pouye

Director, Division of Market Development

Tel: +41 22 730 0310

E-mail: pouye [at] intracen.org ()


For more information on global advocacy:

SME competitiveness:  http://www.intracen.org/smecompetitiveness .

Export strategy:   http://www.intracen.org/itc/trade-strategy/ .

World Export Development Forum: http://www.intracen.org/itc/events/world-export-development-forum/  .

General Information

The international trade arena is dynamic and complex. SMEs find it particularly challenging to become and remain competitive in such an environment. Yet, their survival and success in a globalized, dynamic world is crucial for inclusive economic growth and social cohesion.

In its global outreach, ITC works systematically with the private sector and with thought leaders from academia and the policy world to draw attention to SMEs’ role for sustainable development and to assess and address drivers of SME competitiveness. ITC boosts awareness of these topics notably through its regular participation in global events like the Aid for Trade Review and by orchestrating trade-related events such as the World Export Development Forum.

Understanding and addressing SME Competitiveness

With its annual flagship report SME Competitiveness Outlook, ITC contributes to the global debate on SME internationalization. The publication combines data analysis, academic insights, thought leader opinions and case studies to provide guidance for policymakers, business managers and TISIs.

The SME competitiveness framework applied in the report allows stakeholders to identify strengths and weaknesses of local SMEs in a global environment. Starting from the premise that it is ultimately firms that trade, the framework shows how to assess whether bottlenecks to trade occur at the firm level, in their immediate environment or at the national policy level. This makes it possible for policymakers to reach out to firms and their employees by developing a competitiveness narrative and strategy in parallel with their trade policy narrative. It also allows them to design and implement policies that respond directly to the concerns of SMEs.

Awareness of new issues in international trade

Global advocacy is at the heart of a number of ITC programmes, particularly those in new and innovative areas such as e-commerce, non-tariff measures (NTMs) affecting trade, women and trade, and trade and the environment.


With its publication Bringing SMEs onto the e-Commerce Highway and its ensuing e-learning course, ITC is contributing to the global debate around e-commerce’s increasing relevance in international trade. ITC has notably channelled its expertise through several B20 taskforces in recent years and collaborates in its work with private sector players and NGOs that are specialised in the field.

Non-tariff measures

Standards and regulations for goods and services are essential tools to achieve the social and environmental sustainability of trade, contribute to consumer protection and facilitate trade by guaranteeing compatibility. In addition to public standards and regulations, the 21st century trade landscape is also marked by a proliferation of voluntary sustainability standards (VSS) which must be considered in any business or policy discussion on regulatory frameworks. They are at the heart of international value chains, supporting better traceability, transparency and efficiency.

Standards are pervasive and diverse. Toys, drugs, business processes and food require very different sets of standards, regulations and technical infrastructure. Navigating the maze of standards and regulations – which many trade practitioners call non-tariff measures (NTMs) – is complex, especially for SMEs. Small businesses are particularly vulnerable to the compliance costs that standards and regulations can represent.

Through its data collection and dissemination on NTMs and VSS, ITC contributes to raising transparency in this domain. In collaboration with its partners in academia, ITC’s work also contributes to assessing how standards and regulations affect SME competitiveness thus providing promising venues for addressing any bottlenecks that may occur.

Trade and environment

With several NTMs associated with the environment and climate change, global advocacy is an important part of ITC’s Trade for Sustainable Development Programme. Besides research and information on voluntary standards, the programme has produced a how-to guide on carbon-foot-printing for SMEs, and ITC is actively engaged in raising the visibility of trade and environmental issues in the media. A special study on trade in endangered species was produced in partnership with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) for use by government authorities and NGOs in Southeast Asia.

Women and trade

A key component of ITC’s Women and Trade Programme is building awareness of gender issues in trade and mainstreaming gender into trade-related technical assistance work and into trade policy. ITC also conducts research to develop a deeper understanding of the gender make-up of key sectors in partner countries in order to maximize impact of activities on women. ITC’s Global Platform for Action on Sourcing from Women Vendors is actively involved in highlighting the extremely low level of procurement from women-owned companies — by corporations and governments — and is committed to raising the level of corporate spending on women from 1% to 7% among its members.

Strategies for export development

Real change in the trade landscape and dynamics of a particular sector, country or region can only be effected through strategic, integrated initiatives involving a representative array of stakeholders from the public and private sectors to identify a common vision, determine the strategic requirements, and manage the implementation of an action plan. In this context, an export strategy represents the best possible assessment of trade-related needs and a basis from which to attract investment for future initiatives.

In addition to working with individual sectors and countries, export strategy plays an intrinsic role in a number of ITC’s large programmes. Placing export strategy at the forefront of large programmes allows optimize resources and focus partners on the ultimate goal of sustainable development through exports.

Building on 15 years of experience, ITC has developed more than 70 strategy solutions in over 50 countries. ITC rejects conventional top-down approaches to trade strategy design by facilitating a truly national vision, with an export strategy developed for the country, by the country and with extensive stakeholder inputs throughout the process. This focus on country ownership, combined with ITC’s unique approach to value chain development, means that each strategy ITC facilitates is unique. Through an inclusive process, ITC is able to blend state-of-the-art data analysis- courtesy of ITC’s own SME Competitiveness Framework and Export Potential Assessment methodology - together with forward-thinking business, country and market intelligence in order to come up with relevant, realistic and innovative strategic policy recommendations to support value chain development. Each of ITC’s strategy solutions, including implementation frameworks, is tailored to meet specific partner needs that can range from building productive capacities to developing an enabling business environment or even harnessing the power of green trade. Highlighting the focus on national ownership, ITC strategies focus on securing formal government endorsement.