Export Quality Management Programme: ITC Overcoming Technical Barriers to Trade

Article excerpt

Quality is a prerequisite for successful market access and increasing revenues from export, but meeting technical requirements in the international marketplace is a challenge for many exporters. According to ITC research, approximately 80% of the problems faced by exporters are in the area of technical barriers to trade (TBT) and sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS).

ITC experience suggests that exporters in developing countries experience four main challenges to overcoming technical barriers to trade and in accessing new markets:

1. Obtaining information about the mandatory technical regulations and voluntary standards applicable in the importing country;

2. Adapting their products to meet these requirements efficiently;

3. Demonstrating that the products meet the relevant requirements; and

4. Obtaining the necessary support at each step from the national quality infrastructure, which in many developing countries is not up to standard.

ITC's Export Quality Management Programme has developed an integrated approach to overcoming these challenges with a two-part strategy that includes capacity building through training programmes and advisory services to enterprises, conformity assessment bodies and policy-makers.

Knowing technical requirements

Standards and conformity assessment play a key role in facilitating trade but it can be difficult for small and medium-sized exporters to understand the complex issues involved. Through sector-specific workshops and practical guidebooks, ITC seeks to inform exporters and trade support institutions about the technical requirements in these sectors.

For example, the export potential of developing countries in fisheries is hampered by the lack of awareness about requirements for exporting fish and fishery products. To address this, workshops were organized in many South Asian countries, where representatives of the private sector and the competent authority gained a common understanding of the issues involved. The workshops were supported by an easy-to-understand Export Quality bulletin, entitled Exporting Seafood to the EU.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) established a Cosmetic Harmonized Regulatory Scheme that emphasizes post-market surveillance instead of pre-market approval and good manufacturing practice to facilitate trade in cosmetics in the region. The Asia Trust Fund, a joint ITC-ASEAN Secretariat initiative, helped a number of ASEAN member countries to implement this scheme through the delivery of an in-depth mentoring and training programme for more than 900 regulators and industry representatives. A network of 20 experts was established and trade in cosmetics was enhanced when the scheme came into effect in January 2008.

In Bangladesh there was limited awareness about how the WTO Agreements on TBT and SPS (see page 24) could be used to enhance market access. A train-the-trainer programme focused on developing training materials customized for local trainers in various sectors, taking into account national needs. Workshops on these agreements were conducted across a number of sectors including fisheries, horticulture, agro-processed foods, textile and leather products. More than 300 participants from the private sector and government are now in a better position to obtain information on and comply with technical requirements. Furthermore, after the completion of the ITC programme, local trainers established STCG--an SPS/TBT consulting group which aims to educate other stakeholders through workshops and collaboration with trade bodies.

Improving quality and meeting complex technical requirements

There is also a need for small and medium enterprises to implement basic quality-control measures to enhance their export readiness. …