Trade Directors and experts on trade policy formulation meet at UNCTAD 14

05 August 2016

In Nairobi, senior trade officials and experts shared their experience and lessons learnt in national trade policy formulation and implementation supported by UNCTAD's trade policy frameworks

UNCTAD organized a Trade policy and Sustainable Development Meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, from 18-19 July during UNCTAD 14, addressing the following main topics:

  1. Trade policy frameworks and Sustainable Development Goals.
  2. Trade policy, the multilateral trading system and regional integration.
  3. Trade policy frameworks: Experiences and lessons learnt.
  4. Trade Policy Frameworks, methodology, process and institution.

The Meeting was opened by M. Nelson Ndirangu, Director of Trade, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Kenya, and Ms. Mina Mashayekhi, Head, Trade Negotiations and Commercial Diplomacy Branch, DITC, UNCTAD.

About 30 participants from Ministries of Trade in Africa, especially Directors of Trade, senior experts and research institutions dealing with trade policy attended and made invaluable contributions towards improving trade policy formulation and implementation. In particular, trade directors, officials and experts from Jamaica, Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Zambia, Algeria and Tunisia, to which UNCTAD has provided technical support to prepare SDG-compliant trade policy frameworks in the last three years attended and shared their practical experiences and challenges. Other participants included representatives from EAC and the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPPRA).

Representatives of Governments and experts in trade policy stressed the need for trade policy to contribute towards the achievement of SDGs in general. Participants stressed that trade policy must be based on the broader development goals of the country. Trade policy must contribute to building competitive productive capacitates; Trade policy ought to support expansion of exports especially with value addition and diversification strategy given that most of them depend on single commodity exports. Some said trade policy should embrace liberalization but also accompany it with productive capacity-building leading to exports of manufactured goods and services. Many said that it should include building of human skills for better trade policy formulation and implementation.

There was broad consensus that it should ensure better coherence between all policies and coordination between all relevant players. Implementation plan of trade policy was, according to most speakers the most important part and needed to be completed with actions and responsibilities allocated to relevant ministries. It was also necessary to ensure inclusiveness of all relevant stakeholders and basing trade policy on national consensus. Most experts alluded to the fact that it should take advantage of an evolving multilateral trading system, mega-regional trade agreements and African regional integration processes. Finally, mention was made that trade policy should ensure that sustainable development issues were an integral part of trade policy.

The meeting concluded by resolving that trade policy frameworks and UNCTAD's support were necessary and had enabled their countries to understand better how to formulate trade policy but implementation remained a major challenge. They called on UNCTAD to continue to support them in implementation.

Mr. Joel Sentsho, trade policy adviser to the Botswana Ministry of Trade and Industry ended the meeting by the words, "We are very pleased with the suggestions from the meeting and in particular thank UNCTAD for the ongoing support provided in the preparation of our trade policy and request for financial and technical support for implementation before end of this year."

Two weeks after the trade policy meeting, the Government of Botswana made a follow up and submitted, in a letter dated 2nd August 2016 to the Secretary General of UNCTAD a request for UNCTAD's support in the implementation of the trade policy. Discussions are underway between UNCTAD and Botswana to set dates for the implementation mission before end of September.

Under a United Nations Development Account project, UNCTAD supports developing countries in formulating coherent and best-fit national trade policy frameworks that are geared towards meeting broader development goals under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This represents a major component of UNCTAD's toolbox in support of developing countries' efforts at SDGs.