History of the Multi-Agency Support Team (MAST)

In 2006, the Secretary-General of UNCTAD established the Group of Eminent Persons on Non-Tariff Barriers (GNTB), the main purpose of which is to discuss the definition, classification, collection and quantification of non-tariff barriers so as to identify data requirements, and consequently to facilitate our understanding of the implications of NTMs. To advance the activities on NTBs, the GNTB met for the first time in UNCTAD Geneva on 12 July 2006, and adopted the following terms of reference:

  1. To make recommendations on the definition, classification and quantification of NTBs.
  2. To define elements of and draw up a substantive work programme relating to the collection and dissemination of NTB data, with a special focus on issues and problems faced by developing countries.
  3. To provide guidance on the further strengthening of UNCTAD´s Trade Analysis and Information System (TRAINS) database.
  4. To review and make recommendations on capacity-building and technical cooperation activities in favour of developing countries in the area of NTBs.
  5. To provide policy advice on inter-agency collaboration and coordination on activities relating to NTBs.
  6. To promote cooperation with the donor community.
  7. To prepare comprehensive recommendations on follow-up to its work.

To carry out the technical work of the GNTB, a Multi-Agency Support Team (MAST) was set up by the GNTB. In addition to UNCTAD, the MAST is composed of the following organizations: the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), International Trade Centre UNCTAD/WTO (ITC), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), World Bank and World Trade Organization (WTO). It was also represented by observers from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the United States International Trade Commission (USITC) and the European Commission. The team is composed of experts drawn from the above international organizations dealing with substantive analysis of NTMs.

Under the general guidance of UNCTAD, MAST had the following objectives:

  1. To provide a clear and concise definition of NTMs.
  2. To develop a classification system of NTMs to facilitate data collection process and analysis.
  3. To devise ways to collect efficiently the information on NTMs, taking into account existing mechanism of collecting specific elements of NTMs by each member agency.
  4. To provide guidelines for the use of data, including their quantification methodology.

Since 2006 MAST has held a number of meetings to discuss the NTMs classification, identify data sources and data collection mechanisms.

On 5 November 2009, the Secretary-General of UNCTAD convened the meeting in Geneva of the GNTB to finalize the work on the definition, classification and the proposal for a multi-year global joint programme on NTMs of UNCTAD, World Bank, WTO and ITC. At the meeting, the GNTB members endorsed the definition and new classification system proposed by UNCTAD in conjunction with MAST members. The November 2009 GNTB meeting represents a landmark in the work on NTMs conducted by UNCTAD since the 1980s. Under UNCTAD's umbrella seven international organizations, namely FAO, IMF, ITC, OECD, UNIDO, the World Bank and WTO, experts from USDA, USITC, EC, and governments, regional organizations and academics, paved the way for global consensus-building on the definition, classification, collection of NTMs, as well as to facilitate understanding and awareness of such measures among the developing countries.


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