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Development Account Projects

Strengthening the development of international merchandise trade statistics and e-commerce in member countries of the ESCWA

Background:

Drawing on the conclusions of the meeting of the Task Force on International Merchandise Trade Statistics (Rome, 16-18 April 2002) the ESCWA Statistical Committee recommended that the region’s statistical capacity in the area of international merchandise trade be improved, particularly in the areas of trade classification, production of price indices for imports and exports and registering of e-commerce.

The improved capacity of ESCWA member countries for the production and utilization of international merchandise trade statistics is an important element of the region’s development. The current merchandise trade data in the ESCWA region suffers from poor collection of international trade statistics, inadequate coordination between national statistical offices and other institutions involved in gathering and producing merchandise trade statistics, lack of a proper system for covering and recording the quantities of commodities traded between ESCWA member countries and their partners, improper handling of confidential data and inadequate treatment of e-commerce and trade in digital products used in recording and collecting trade statistics. The project is aimed at establishing a network within ESCWA member States that would assist countries in more effectively managing trade data and sharing knowledge and information.

The target beneficiaries of the project will be national statistical offices and customs authorities, trade regime policymakers, the private sector and other businesses related to international trade in the 13 ESCWA member countries.

ESCWA will implement the project in partnership with the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), UNCTAD and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). FAO will be involved in joint activities with ESCWA to assist member countries in compiling, processing, analysing and disseminating data on agricultural commodities exported to developed countries, while the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, OECD and UNCTAD will provide expertise and resource persons to assist the project in achieving its objective.

Objective:

To enhance ESCWA member countries’ capacity to collect, analyse and disseminate trade data (with a focus on agricultural products, trade and commodities) to strengthen the formulation, monitoring and evaluation of national plans and policies, including in the context of international and regional trade negotiations.

Expected accomplishments:

  • Improved quality of IMTS, including recording of IMTS related information at Customs and other relevant offices, better application of international recommendations and better data validation at National Statistical Offices, as well as improved dissemination of IMTS and trade indicators
  • Improved measurement of e-commerce in relation to international merchandise trade.
  • Initiated a network of trade statisticians for sustainability of capacity

Implementation status:

The project aims to enhance ESCWA member countries' capacity to compile, process, analyze and disseminate trade data to strengthen the formulation, monitoring and evaluation of national plans and policies, including those in the context of international and regional trade negotiations. As a result of the project, a number of countries have updated their computer systems and databases to comply with international standards. The project has raised awareness and interest of institutions in participating countries on the importance of IMTS and assisted them identify the gaps they have with respect to international standards. The participating institutions have developed an interest in e-commerce.

Capacity building activities, which included workshops and trainings, have contributed to enhancing the capacity of statisticians in beneficiary countries to prepare external trade indices.

Project activities have also triggered communication and sharing of expertise between institutions of the same country and between countries, which is a necessary component for any future project; the knowledge base is intended to develop and sustain this communication.