Legal and Regulatory Framework - UNCTAD

Legal and Regulatory Framework - UNCTAD

Information dated: 2017
Assistance to WTO accession

Countries wishing to accede to the World Trade Organization (WTO) consider membership as one important means of integrating beneficially into the international trading system and the global economy. Accession to the WTO is a long and complex negotiation process that requires extensive human resources and institutional capacities, including sectoral expertise. Many countries that request to accede, particularly least developed countries (LDCs) and small economies, face particular constraints and challenges, such as the limited analytical capacity to support trade and impact analysis and lack of resources to respond to information requests during the accession process, as well as other limitations.

UNCTAD assistance serves as an important reinforcement of capacity in trade-related negotiations for countries engaged in the WTO accession process. Support includes training of government officials and other relevant stakeholders on particular WTO agreements and assisting countries in the preparation of memorandums of foreign trade regime and other key accession documents, as well as the exchange of experiences and lessons learned. UNCTAD has assisted both large economies that have acceded to the WTO, such as China and the Russian Federation, as well as African countries, LDCs and countries in with economies in transition, including Kazakhstan, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Samoa, Seychelles, Tajikistan, Vanuatu, and Yemen. As a part of its support, UNCTAD has developed a series of training modules to raise awareness and understanding of economic and technical aspects of the multilateral trading system, trade agreements and related issues, such as agriculture, non-agricultural sectors, services, intellectual property rights and regional trade agreements. Beyond the accession process, UNCTAD supports countries that have recently acceded in the implementation of their WTO commitments.

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Implementation and administration of the Agreement on the Global System of Trade Preferences among Developing Countries (GSTP)

Developing countries established the GSTP Agreement in 1988 to promote and sustain mutual trade and the development of economic cooperation among them, through the exchange of concessions in accordance with the terms of the Agreement, which entered into force in 1990. Accession to the Agreement is open to developing countries who are members of the Group of 77 and their sub-regional, regional and inter-regional groupings. As of writing, there are 43 parties to the Agreement (“Participants”). The GSTP Committee of Participants, composed of representatives of governments of Participants, performs such functions as facilitating the operation and furthering the objectives of the Agreement. Financed by GSTP Participants, the GSTP Project extends technical and administrative support to the Committee.

For more information: http://unctad.org/en/Pages/DITC/TNCD/Trade-Negotiations-and-Commercial-Diplomacy-.aspx


Technical cooperation in the area of competition and consumer protection law and policy

UNCTAD is the focal point within the United Nations system on all work related to competition and consumer protection law and policy.

The mandate on competition dates from the adoption of the United Nations Set of Multilaterally Agreed Equitable Principles and Rules for the Control of Restrictive Business Practices (the "UN Set") in 1980. It aims "to ensure that restrictive business practices do not impede or negate the realization of benefits that should arise from the liberalization of tariff and non-tariff barriers affecting international trade, particularly those affecting the trade and development of developing countries.” The UN Set emphasizes the interests of developing countries in this framework and encourages the adoption and strengthening of competition laws and policies by developing countries and economies in transition. The UN Set also calls on UNCTAD to provide technical assistance, advisory services, and training programmes, particularly for developing countries and LDCs.

The General Assembly's resolution 70/186 on consumer protection, of 22 December 2015, approved the revised United Nations Guidelines for consumer protection, first adopted in 1985, and entrusted UNCTAD with the mandate on consumer protection. One of the functions of the recently established Intergovernmental Group of Experts on Consumer Protection Law and Policy is to "provide capacity-building and technical assistance to developing countries and economies in transition in formulating and enforcing consumer protection laws".

UNCTAD’s work on technical assistance and capacity building has a strong regional focus, combined with national activities. UNCTAD assists member States in the drafting and the implementation of national and regional rules on competition and consumer protection, providing training and capacity-building activities to the competition and consumer protection authorities' staff. Furthermore, it organizes seminars and conferences addressed at stakeholders - Government officials, the judiciary, business and consumer organizations, academia, media - to sensitize them to the importance of competition and consumer protection to economic growth and development.

The capacity-building and technical cooperation activities include assistance in the following areas:

  • Drafting new or modernizing existing competition and consumer protection legislation which fits developing countries specific legal, economic and social structure and can best address their development needs;

  • Establishing new or modernizing existing competition and consumer protection institutions;

  • Providing capacity-building for the effective enforcement of both competition and consumer protection laws:

  • Promoting a competition and a consumer protection culture through competition advocacy and consumer protection awareness raising activities addressed to a wide range of stakeholders, namely from civil society;

  • Conducting voluntary peer reviews of both competition and consumer law and policy.

  • In these fields, UNCTAD works closely with developed countries' competition and consumer protection authorities, development partners, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the International Competition Network (ICN), the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN), civil society organizations, academia and competition and consumer protection experts.

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UNCTAD Training Programmes TrainForTrade

The UNCTAD TrainForTrade programme focuses on developing and strengthening human resources and institutional capacities involved in international trade, trade related services, finance, investment and port management. This is done by implementing different training courses and activities; supporting institutional frameworks for trade related issues at national and international level; and promoting trade and investment policies for a dynamic, equitable and sustainable development.

The UNCTAD TrainForTrade courses are developed following the programme’s methodology, in close collaboration with the government and other stakeholders in order to address a country’s training needs. Local experts receive training through the Tran For Trade training programme to enable them to become trainers on trade-related issues. This creates local ownership to and sustainability of the capacity development process. The TrainForTrade programme develops high quality courses and maintains high standard delivery by using technological means such as e-learning, m-learning and cloud learning. It combines face-to-face activities with e-learning courses, and ensures that the pedagogic aspects of training are not undermined by technology. At the same time, the use of ICTs as a tool for knowledge-sharing increases the number of beneficiaries while reducing cost.

The UNCTAD TrainForTrade programme emphasises the importance of developing local services by local people for local people. The development of platforms based on smart integration of open source components is encouraged in order to easily share technology with partners.

It offers a wide variety of courses intended to foster the abilities of countries to benefit from trade and investment in for different areas: port training: investment issues: trade related issues and pedagogical courses.

For more information: https://tft.unctad.org/


UNCTAD Virtual Institute on Trade and Development

The UNCTAD Virtual Institute is a capacity-building and networking programme whose objective is to strengthen professional capacities on trade and development issues at developing and transition country universities and help these universities increase the policy orientation and relevance of their work.

For more information: http://vi.unctad.org/


Regional training course: Key Issues on the International Economic Agenda

This flagship UNCTAD training course on trade and development is delivered on a regional basis to developing countries and countries in transition. It is primarily aimed at policy makers with backgrounds in economics, business, international relations, international law or public administration who work on international economic issues and related policies. Academics teaching or researching these issues can also attend. The course focuses on the links between trade, investment, finance and development, the design and implementation of related policies, and international negotiations of trade and development issues, with a focus on the needs and interests of developing and transition countries. Its individual modules deal with develop- mental aspects of trade and financial systems, foreign direct investment and enterprise development, the information economy, international trade and transport facilitation, and multilateral and regional trade agreements. The course culminates with a final simulation exercise, allowing the participants to use their gradually built-up knowledge to take on roles in an international negotiation, most often of a current WTO issue. The course programme integrates global, regional and national perspectives on trade, finance, investment and development issues and is designed with the collaboration of regional commissions, international experts and national experts from the host country.

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Short courses on key international economic issues for Geneva-based diplomats

The objective of the short courses is to update Geneva-based policymakers on the most recent issues and developments on the international economic agenda, so that they can provide relevant information and advice to their governments and best represent the interests of their countries in international negotiations. The course programmes are demand-driven: the diplomats themselves propose areas on which they would require updating. Their suggestions are complemented by courses on emerging topics on which UNCTAD and its individual divisions conduct research work. Six courses are organized every year, divided in spring and autumn terms.

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Strengthening of policy-making, negotiations and promotion of international trade in services

UNCTAD’s innovative work on trade in services in terms of ground-level support and country and sector-specific assessments has the objective of helping countries to assess the contribution of services, reform the sector with an emphasis on development, including strengthening access to essential services, and generate important data and reference material for multilateral and regional trade negotiations.

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Assistance on trade policy making and negotiations

UNCTAD assists developing countries and LDCs to better understand the technical issues involved in trade policy making and negotiations at the bilateral, regional and multilateral levels, to carefully assess the state of play with regard to the different elements of the negotiating agenda and the development implications of each negotiating proposal, to pursue their strategic interests in the negotiations, and to ensure that the outcomes duly reflect their critical developmental concerns.

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Assistance on the utilization of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP)

UNCTAD has continued promoting awareness and understanding among developing countries of how to better utilize preferences available under the GSP by the regular provision of information on a dedicated website, the publication of handbooks on the GSP schemes, and the provision of other technical and administrative services.

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Investment policies

UNCTAD is the focal point within the United Nations system for all issues related to Foreign Direct Investment. As investment currently does not have any global institutional arrangement to oversee its governance (unlike trade or finance), the organization plays a valuable role supporting the international investment community. It conducts leading-edge policy analysis, provides technical assistance and builds international consensus among the 193 United Nations Member States on investment for development, as well as promoting their contribution to the goal of sustainable and inclusive development. Faced with common global economic, social and environmental challenges, the post-2015 development agenda and the sustainable development goals (SDGs) require a significant scaling up of investment. A transformative agenda has been proposed by UNCTAD for investment in the SDGs that can mobilize and channel investment into SDG sectors and maximize its impact. The agenda comprises the Action Plan on Private Investment in the SDGs and the UNCTAD Investment Policy Framework for Sustainable Development, consisting of a set of core principles for investment policymaking, guidelines for national investment policies, and guidance for the design and negotiation of IIAs. Together they represent a new generation of investment policies.

For more information: http://investmentpolicyhub.unctad.org/ipfsd


International Investment Agreements (IIAs) - Legal and Regulatory Framework

UNCTAD is the global focal point for all matters related to IIAs and their development implications. This work includes analysing latest trends and key emerging issues in IIAs, building the capacity of developing countries to negotiate and implement investment treaties that can foster sustainable investment, and providing a platform for universal, inclusive and transparent stakeholder engagement on these issues. UNCTAD has also been at the forefront of efforts to reform the international investment regime and has provided valuable backstopping to this process

For more information: www.unctad.org/iia



Intellectual property and development

UNCTAD’s Intellectual Property Programme helps developing countries to participate effectively in international discussions on intellectual property rights and to help ensure that their intellectual property policies are in line with development objectives. The programme is recognized as a collaborative partner by the World Intellectual Property Organization and the World Health Organization.

For more information: http://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/Intellectual%20Property/Development-Dimensions-of-Intellectual-Property-Rights.aspx