The WTO and the International Trade Centre (ITC)

ITC is the joint cooperation agency of UNCTAD and WTO for business aspects of trade development. Originally created by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in 1964, ITC has been operated since 1968 under the joint aegis of GATT/WTO and the UN, the latter acting through the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). It is the focal point in the UN  system for  technical cooperation with developing countries and economies in transition in trade promotion and export  development.

See also:
> ITC website

While UNCTAD and WTO work principally with governments, ITC works with the business community. In this context, the ITC clarifies the business implications of multilateral trade agreements and assists business in understanding, shaping and benefiting from trade rules. As a subsidiary agency of UNCTAD and the WTO, the ITC is subject to the governing bodies of both. ITC is also subject to the internal oversight procedures of the UN. The Executive Director of ITC is appointed by the Director-General of WTO and the Secretary-General of UNCTAD. Both UNCTAD and WTO are represented in the Joint Advisory Group supervising ITC’s work, and have a number of joint technical assistance activities with ITC, which include:

  • The Joint Integrated Technical Assistance Programme (JITAP)
    through which the three organisations provide Trade Related Technical Assistance (TRTA) to selected LDCs and other African countries, mainly focusing on building their capacity to participate in the trading system. In the provision of TRTA, there is a clear division of labour between the ITC and UNCTAD and WTO. While ITC focuses on trade promotion, UNCTAD and WTO focus on trade policy and regulation. Nonetheless, ITC has developed new competencies in specific specialised aspects of trade policy and regulation in areas related to business advocacy and business participation in the trading system. In joining their respective field of competence, the programme is aimed at avoiding duplication and enhance complementarities.

  • The Integrated Framework for Least Developed Countries (IF)
    Within the IF, the WTO not only cooperates with ITC and UNCTAD, but also with other main agencies and institutions, namely the IMF, UNDP and the World Bank.

  • WTO participates also to the Business for Development (B4D) initiatives.
    Regional B4D meetings are regularly organized with the support of WTO Secretariat, UNCTAD and the Geneva-based Missions. This mechanism intends to enable the private sector in developing countries to define their national priorities for the WTO negotiations, and to encourage governments to be more mindful of business concerns.

  • JITAP, the IF and B4D are specific examples of Aid for Trade — a much wider initiative aimed at helping developing countries, and the least-developed in particular, to build the supply side capacity and trade-related infrastructure they need to benefit more from trade opening and the WTO. Here too the WTO and ITC are working closely together to advance this initiative. ITC is one of the key international organizations represented on the Director-General's Advisory Group on Aid for Trade, where it's private sector expertise and orientation is particularly relevant to the WTO's efforts to better mobilize, monitor and evaluate Aid for Trade.