Port Wings News Network:
The WTO, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the International Trade Centre (ITC) on 23 November signed a Memorandum of Understanding to advance the development of an online platform — the Global Trade Helpdesk — aimed at providing businesses, and particularly small businesses, with faster and easier access to trade data and information on potential export markets.
An early version of HelpMeTrade.org was launched at the WTO’s 11th Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in December 2017. Under the MoU, the WTO, ITC and UNCTAD agree to further develop the platform, with the aim of improving the quality and accessibility of trade information needed by businesses – and in particular, micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) – to access market opportunities. As part of the agreement, the three organizations will provide technical assistance to developing countries to help them maintain up-to-date information in the Global Trade Helpdesk and will raise awareness among MSMEs about how to benefit from this trade information.
By making trade data freely available through a user-friendly interface, the Global Trade Helpdesk will make it easier for companies across the world to increase their participation in world trade and reduce trade costs. It will help policymakers make better-informed decisions about trade and investment policies and will ensure that the international community provides better support to MSMEs.
WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo said: “Gaining access to information on tariffs and other requirements for accessing export markets imposes costs on firms wishing to trade, and for small businesses this can be a substantial barrier to market entry. The Global Trade Helpdesk is a joint endeavour to help remove this barrier by providing businesses with the critical information they need. It will be particularly helpful for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, which need reliable data to pinpoint export opportunities. I look forward to continuing this partnership with UNCTAD and ITC – and with WTO members. Much of the success of this initiative will depend on the engagement of all WTO members to make information related to trade available so that it can be fed into the Global Trade Helpdesk. We all have a role to play to make this vital project a success.”
Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of UNCTAD, said: “The Global Trade Helpdesk is a practical tool that enables companies to access the data they need to make informed decisions about trade. It is an innovation that helps level the information playing field. Working hand in hand with our partners at the ITC and WTO, we’re addressing the needs of the trade community in a concrete fashion, and helping to transform actions into real results.”
Arancha González, Executive Director of the ITC, said: ‘‘ITC is extremely pleased to partner with UNCTAD and the WTO to ensure greater coordination and efficiency on trade information. Trade and market intelligence is fundamental for companies’ decision-making and competitiveness, in particular for micro, small and medium sized enterprises, and the Global Helpdesk is an important platform to facilitate greater coordination amongst the three agencies in delivering effective trade-related capacity building on the ground.”
The Helpdesk will contain comprehensive information from various sources on market requirements (such as tariffs, taxes, relevant health and safety standards for export products), export and import procedures (such as pre-shipment formalities, certification and inspection processes), business opportunities (such as market prices and upcoming events) and current trade statistics. Development of the Helpdesk will take place over three three-year phases. However, it is scheduled to be fully functional in phase 1.
In addition to drawing on data from ITC, UNCTAD and the WTO, the Global Trade Helpdesk will integrate trade information from a number of other international organizations and development banks, including the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the World Bank Group.