As of 2017, UNCTAD has collected comprehensive and comparable NTM data in 109 countries, containing more than 55.000 measures. This data collection is a resource intensive task. First, unlike tariffs, NTM data are not mere numbers. On the contrary, the relevant information stems from legal and regulatory documents, whose regulations data collectors need to categorize according to the MAST NTM classification. Second, legal and regulatory documents may only be available in local language, requiring an in-depth knowledge of their context and mandate. Lastly, these documents are generally not centralized but often reside in different regulatory agencies. To harmonize the NTM data collection process and to minimize uncertainty during the process of categorization and classification, UNCTAD provides Guidelines to Collect Data on Official NTMs. Moreover, UNCTAD offers a free online Training Course on NTM Data Collection, with hands-on examples and case studies.




UNCTAD began to collect and categorize NTMs in 1994, according to a customized Coding System of Trade Control Measures (TCMCS). At the same time, it developed the Trade Analysis and Information System (TRAINS) database, which subsequently grew into the most complete collection of publicly available information on NTMs. Later, in collaboration with the World Bank, TRAINS became accessible to researchers through the World Integrated Trade Solution (WITS) software application.

Growing complexity and interest by both researchers and policymakers in international trade regulations led to the overhaul of TRAINS in 2006. To develop a strategy to reduce the transparency gap, UNCTAD established the Group of Eminent Persons on Non-tariff Barriers in the same year, composed of leading economists from international organizations. A Multi-agency Support Team provided substantial support. As a result, UNCTAD, the African Development Bank, the International Trade Centre and the World Bank launched the Transparency in Trade initiative (TNT). To date, UNCTAD has been leading the work on NTM data collection, benefiting from support by several partners and donors.


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