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Development Account Projects

Strengthening the capacities of policymakers to assess the implications of non-tariff measures in international trade and formulate appropriate policy responses


Many developing countries have greatly benefited from integration into the global economy through trade in goods and services. Their integration into international markets was made possible through appropriate, conducive policies such as tariff liberalization, as well as initiatives related to trade facilitation and aid for trade. Today, deeper integration into the global economy depends not only on those supportive policies, but also, and increasingly, on policy responses to various forms of complex non-tariff measures such as standards, sanitary and phytosanitary requirements and behind-the-border regulations.

The rise in the use of these policy instruments has led to a significant knowledge gap in terms of understanding the economic effects of such policies and their implications for sustainable development. Policymakers in developing countries need a comprehensive understanding of how non-tariff measures can affect their export potential and of how to design appropriate policy responses. Although the use of non-tariff measures is often legitimate in addressing growing non‑trade concerns (i.e., environmental and consumer protection), their use can also be driven by protectionist intentions, with important discriminatory and restrictive effects for the exports of developing countries. In spite of the increasing importance of non-tariff measures in regulating international trade, the degree of their prevalence and use remains largely unknown. The currently available data on such measures are outdated and incomplete.

There is a pressing need for a renewed effort to collect and disseminate accurate, comprehensive and up-to-date data, as well as to analyse those data in order to gain a better understanding of the implications of non-tariff measures for international trade, economic growth and sustainable development. Member States are increasingly aware of the critical importance of addressing non‑tariff measures with a view to a successful, export-led development strategy. Several developing countries and their regional integration organizations have included non-tariff measures among their top priorities and requested UNCTAD to assist them in classifying and collecting data on such measures (through the establishment of a common data repository and the upgrading of national/regional databases), creating special analytical tools to assess the impacts of non-tariff measures and formulating appropriate policy responses. The overall purpose of the project is to address this knowledge gap by identifying and assessing the impacts of specific non-tariff measures that may restrain the integration of developing countries into the global economy. The project is also intended to produce analytical studies focusing on the impacts of non-tariff measures (such as technical barriers to trade, sanitary and phytosanitary regulations, price control measures, contingency protection measures and rules of origin). The studies are to be summarized in a report so as to provide practical policy guidance, with focus placed on the market access perspective, regional integration strategies and trade negotiations.

Beneficiaries of the project are policymakers and other government officials, trade policy researchers and other relevant stakeholders in all Member States. Moreover, the project is aimed at building capacity, focusing on three geographical areas covering all developing regions (Central America, sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia) and their respective regional integration bodies, including the Latin American Intergration Association, the Southern African Development Community and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. It is expected that approximately 15 countries will directly benefit from the project through capacity-building, while virtually all Member States will benefit through research and analysis output regarding the use and effects of non-tariff measures and how they can affect the integration of countries into the global economy.

The project builds upon lessons learned from the intergovernmental meetings of UNCTAD, as well as its responses to specific requests of Member States to help them design new trade policies and assist in negotiating trade agreements. The project will also draw on the positive experience resulting from the collaboration among UNCTAD, the World Trade Organization (WTO), the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, FAO and OECD on the Conference’s 2012 comprehensive classification of non-tariff measures, as well as from the “transparency in trade” partnership established among UNCTAD, the International Trade Centre, the World Bank and the African Development Bank to upgrade and disseminate comprehensive data on non-tariff measures in order to meet the needs of developing countries. The data resulting from the project will be managed by UNCTAD and freely disseminated to all Member States through the World Integrated Trade Solutions/Trade Analysis and Information System database. UNCTAD will also provide expertise in updating/creating national and regional databases on non-tariff measures where required.


To increase the capacity of policymakers in developing countries to address the implications of non-tariff measures for improving export performance and integration into the global economy

Expected accomplishments:

  • Enhanced capacity of officials, researchers and institutions in developing countries to collect and disseminate information on non-tariff measures
  • Enhanced capacity of officials, researchers and institutions in developing countries to use the collected data to analyse the effects of non-tariff measures on the domestic economy and exports
  • Enhanced awareness, knowledge and capacity of policymakers in developing countries to formulate effective policy responses using established data platforms and improved analytical tools related to non-tariff measures

Implementation status:

Summary of the progress report for 2014

The following activities have taken place/ are ongoing:

  • The data collection phase of the project has been initiated in a number of countries. Data sources have been identified for Viet Nam and Australia and revised/expanded for China.
  • Collaboration with ASEAN secretariat has been initiated with the goal of increasing data coverage for various ASEAN member countries.
  • Consultations with UN regional commission (ESCAP) and the Andean Community have taken place to discuss the dissemination phase.