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National trade strategies


    A National Trade Strategy (NTS) is a ‘whole of country’ framework that tactically responds to current and emerging needs and opportunities. The goal is to improve exports, increase foreign exchange earnings and stimulate job creation. Targeted actions at the firm, business ecosystem and policy levels can support resilient value chains as well as inclusive and greener trade.

    It is the most comprehensive of ITC-facilitated strategies, addressing not only trade promotion, but also productive capacities, the business environment, market-entry conditions and development-related issues.

    About National Trade Strategies

    A National Trade Strategy not only promotes export growth and business competitiveness, but also supports socioeconomic development.

    It is a national vision developed by the country, for the country, with extensive stakeholder inputs. It empowers a partner country to:

    • Gain a conceptual understanding of trade and export issues and how to address them
    • Deepen integration into regional and international markets
    • Diversify export products and destinations by developing existing and new markets
    • Improve the performance of small businesses in local and global markets
    • Stimulate investment by identifying key priority areas with high potential
    • Strengthen public-private partnership and dialogue to drive trade development
    • Build an implementation management framework that delivers results

    Each strategy is tailored to national objectives, such as the development of specific sectors, trade support functions or themes, such as women’s economic empowerment, youth employment or environmental sustainability.

    An ITC-facilitated NTS is the strategy of strategies, building on the best of existing plans and policies while highlighting new, concrete actions to get results. There is no duplication of work.

    It is designed through collaboration and coordination among all key trade-related stakeholders, to support export development and business competitiveness. It is anchored in strong public-private dialogue and partnership. The NTS builds upon comprehensive market-driven analyses to identify and define key priorities for improving trade and investment performance.

    The strategy lays out targeted, measurable steps to strengthen all aspects of trade in a country, from production to promotion.

    An NTS succeeds where other plans may not because it:

    • Is owned and championed by the highest levels of government and business
    • Prioritizes actions and areas of improvement, based on available resources
    • Responds to national needs and international market demand
    • Has implementation built into the design, making it practical

    ITC provides support at every step, from design to implementation, bringing more than 50 years of international trade and development experience, including export strategy work since 2003.

    A full National Trade Strategy can be designed in 10-12 months.

    The process is led by key trade-related stakeholders in government, business, institutions, and civil society, using ITC’s well-established methodology, training and tools.

    The strategy strengthens priority sectors and key trade support functions. In general, a national export strategy spotlights priority sectors – for example, coffee, wood processing or tourism – and key trade support functions such as e-commerce, logistics or quality management.

    Designing a national export strategy includes five steps:

    1. Assess a country's current position, performance and competitiveness through specialized audits. Existing development plans and strategies are reviewed to ensure consistency with government objectives.
    2. Identify constraints that limit export development, based on a clear understanding of strengths, weaknesses and market opportunities and requirements. Then define the best market development opportunities for sustainable and inclusive economic growth.
    3. Prioritize the best opportunities for sustainable economic growth, and among trade support functions to improve the overall business environment.
    4. Design a detailed plan of action endorsed by all stakeholders, defining what activities need to be done, by whom, by what date, with what resources, to achieve which goals.
    5. Set up structures and systems to manage strategy implementation, with further assistance provided by ITC through capacity building and technical and advisory support, as well as customizable online tools to track and monitor progress.

    To experience the strategy's full benefits, a country can work with ITC on managing its implementation.

    ITC’s strategy implementation support enables a partner country to:

    • Set up effective structures and systems to coordinate activities, resolve issues and keep the strategy current as market dynamics change, while promoting accountability and transparency. 
    • Mobilize the skills and resources needed to manage implementation, through technical and advisory support and capacity building.
    • Use a customizable tool to plan, coordinate, measure and prioritize aspects of the implementation process. ITC provides a web-based application called the Strategy Implementation Management Tool at www.tradestrategy.org.

    Related pages

    ITC contact

    said [at] intracen.org
    Chief of Research and Strategies for Exports
    bramos [at] intracen.org