Magazine article International Trade Forum

Putting It All Together: ITC's Template for Strategy-Makers. (Exporting Better)

Magazine article International Trade Forum

Putting It All Together: ITC's Template for Strategy-Makers. (Exporting Better)

Article excerpt

Sustained improvement in export performance relies on a comprehensive, realistic national export strategy and the capacity to manage it. The fact is, however, that few developing countries have invested in formulating a national export strategy. Why?

Debate in the Executive Forums has provided at least a partial answer. Politically, export development rates a low priority. The average voter considers other social and economic issues to be significantly more important than export performance. From the immediate perspective of the individual, they might seem right. In practice, once a government tries to take action on these social and economic issues, it soon runs up against the difficulty -- even impossibility -- of achieving development in an open economy without giving priority to export performance.

For those engaged in international commerce, either directly (the case of the business executive) or indirectly (the case of the economic planner), there can be no higher priority than ensuring that the national export effort is based on a sound strategic foundation. The problem is that planners in many developing and transition economies are unfamiliar with what determines a good national export strategy, in terms of both process and content.

A second finding from the Executive Forum is equally disturbing. In those countries that do have a national export strategy, very few are effective. Indeed, few are even implemented. One participant in the 2002 Executive Forum summed it up: "Most of them exist only in paper, not in action."

Building strategies that work

ITC's new Secrets of Strategy Template is an attempt to address both issues: the general absence of national export strategies and the overall ineffectiveness of those that exist. Its goal is to facilitate the formulation of effective and realistic national export strategies: in short, strategies that work. The template is an interactive CD-ROM. It is designed as a 'process tool' that will assist the strategy-maker -- and more precisely the strategy-making team -- to 'build' a relevant national export strategy based on a realistic assessment of national capacities, competitive position, the resources available to devote to the export priority and a clear understanding of what works and what does not.

Content-wise, the template covers all the bases. It confronts the issue of political commitment to export development. It provides detailed parameters for the preparation of sector level strategies. It includes step-by-step approaches to the design of strategies for essential cross-sectoral trade support services, such as trade information, trade finance, quality management and competency development. Equally important, the template provides guidelines for managing the strategy.

Best practice

ITC developed the template on the basis of conclusions reached on 'best practice' during Executive Forum debates and on lessons learned during the course of providing technical assistance at field level. Experience from the Executive Forum suggested that strategy-makers in developing countries, and to a large extent those organizations involved in the national trade support network, today concentrate their attention on market development. The strategic imperative understandably, therefore, focuses current efforts on market access, export promotion and providing the export community with market information and related market support services.


The template groups the above services within the 'border-out gear' of national strategy. It is an essential gear, one to which the exporter attaches highest priority. And the template provides a road map, benchmarks and best practice examples from which to develop an appropriate strategic approach to the delivery of border-out services to the business community.


But border-out services are not nearly enough. The border-out gear seeks only to increase the sales of products that already exist. …

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