Trade Forum Features

50 years of trade and development

1 July 2014
ITC News
Success is when trade barriers are overcome

This year, the International Trade Centre (ITC) marks its 50th anniversary. Since ITC was created in 1964, its role has changed dramatically in response to the ever-changing landscape of global trade. From a five-person office, ITC has grown into a team of 300 staff from across the globe working with developing countries, their small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and trade and investment promotion institutions, to build productive capacities and boost trade competitiveness.

In 1964, world trade stood at an estimated US$ 175 billion of which the developing countries had a share of below 20%. Today, global trade is estimated at US$ 18 trillion, with developing countries accounting for around 45% of this. True, that share is unevenly balanced but it is fair to say that most developing countries have seen an increase in trade in the past decades.

Changes to global trade are set to continue in the coming years, too. The emergence of international value chains will continue to affect trade patterns. We are seeing new forms of regionalism and there will be a significant growth of trade in services. We are also to expect greater incidence of non-tariff measures, higher and more volatile commodity prices, and climate change, all of which will continue to affect trade. These trends will raise significant challenges for ITC and its partners in the coming years and decades.

The larger part of this issue of International Trade Forum is dedicated to ITC’s 50th anniversary. We look at the past and what lies ahead, we talk with two former Executive Directors, and we hear from our partners on their experience from working with ITC over the years. And we also look back at 50 years of International Trade Forum, and how this magazine has been evolving in parallel with ITC.

ITC and Trade Forum are not alone marking milestones this year. Our sister organizations, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) are celebrating, too. Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi looks back at 50 years of UNCTAD and the challenges ahead , whereas Deputy Director-General Yonov Frederick Agah looks back at the 20 years that have passed since the signing of the Marrakesh Agreements, which established the WTO.

In April, Liberia launched its National Export Strategy and its National Trade Policy, two instruments that were developed with ITC assistance. On pages 12 to 14, we talk with some of the businessmen and women that the strategy and policy seek to help. And on pages 36 to 37 we report on a joint ITC and UNDP project launched in Palestine earlier this year to improve the business capacities of entrepreneurs, and we speak with some Palestinian businesswomen about the challenges that they face in exporting their goods.

Whereas anniversaries are good opportunities to take stock of past achievements, they are also reminders that there is much work left undone. The real celebrations at ITC occur when our partners succeed: when Liberian businesses achieve export success or when Palestinian women entrepreneurs overcome the barriers to trade that they face. That is the real cause for our celebrations. Join us in wishing us more trade impact for good in the future!