Services, Trade and Development
Services trade and development 

The services sector plays an increasingly important role in the global economy and the growth and development of countries through the generation of opportunities for greater income, productivity, employment, investment and trade. Indeed, manufacturing activities and competitiveness increasingly depend on services, a phenomenon known as "servicification".

Services are also crucial for achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Strengthening the domestic services sector by increasing its backward and forward linkages with the primary and the secondary sectors, as well as its linkage with trade, can be an effective component of a comprehensive development strategy. For developing countries, service trade is the new frontier for enhancing their participation in international trade and, in turn, realizing development gains. Moreover, as services trade demonstrated relative resilience in the latest financial and economic crises this creates additional incentives for countries to incorporate services trade into their national trade and growth strategies.

Given the multifaceted contribution of services to national economy and trade, it is critically important for countries to design and implement a services-driven development strategy within a coherent and comprehensive policy framework, ensuring linkages with other policy areas and overall national development objectives. However, due to the complexity of the services sector and the broad range of actors involved across ministries, departments and agencies at different levels of government as well as in the private sector, developing and implementing such a strategy remains a challenge for many countries. Hence the slow progress in positively integrating developing countries into the global services economy and increasing their participation in services trade. It is therefore imperative to increase public and private sector advocacy and awareness, to mobilize policy attention and resources to boost the sector's contribution to growth and development.

UNCTAD has implemented a comprehensive work programme on services, trade and development with a view to assisting developing countries in growing their services sectors, increasing their participation in services trade and realizing development benefits.

Our focus areas include:

  • Services policy reform

  • Multilateral rule-making in services

  • Development impact of trade liberalization in services

  • Multilateral and regional negotiations on services, including on preferential treatment to services and service suppliers from LDC members



01 May 2020Securing access to financial services for vulnerable people during COVID-19
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14 April 2020Coronavirus deals severe blow to services sectors
01 May 2019Services key to revving up economic growth and development
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03 December 2018Paraguay eyes services sector for growth
09 May 2018Multi-Year Expert Meeting on Trade, Services and Development (7-8 May 2018)
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