Many developing countries, especially in Africa south of the Sahara, are increasingly being marginalized in the global economy. There are several reasons for this, such as declining terms of trade for primary products on which many countries still depend; an enabling environment in the countries not fostering competitiveness and diversification of the industry; international markets not yet fully liberalised; and lack of qualified manpower. It is recognized that an important element in obtaining sustainable economic growth - as one of the prerequisites for improving living conditions - is the development of the private productive and service sectors and the re-integration of the economies in the developing countries into the global economy. ITC is one of the organisations assisting countries in trying to achieve this.

The International Trade Centre UNCTAD/WTO (ITC) is the focal point in the United Nations system for technical co-operation with developing countries in trade promotion. ITC was created in 1964 and since 1968 has been operated jointly by GATT (now the WTO) and the UN through UNCTAD. ITC is directly responsible for implementing UNDP-financed projects in developing countries and economies in transition related to trade promotion with a view to expanding their exports and improving their import operations. ITC gives priority to supporting trade development efforts of the least developed countries.

Five long-term corporate goals have been formulated for ITC’s activities:

  • Goal 1: To facilitate the integration of developing and transition economy enterprises into the multilateral trading system;
  • Goal 2: To support national efforts to design and implement trade development strategies;
  • Goal 3: To strengthen key trade support services, both public and private;
  • Goal 4: To improve sector export performance in sectors of critical importance and opportunity;
  • Goal 5: To foster international competitiveness within the business community as a whole and the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) sector in particular.

ITC receives its core funding from the UN and the WTO. A number of countries support ITC’s trust fund, which finances technical cooperation activities. In 2002, ITC’s total expenditures amounted to USD 38 million, of which 44 per cent of its technical co-operation expenditures were destined for LDCs.

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