The World Trade Organization (WTO), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the International Trade Centre (ITC) have signed an MoU to advance the development of an online Global Trade Helpdesk.
The platform is aimed at providing businesses, and particularly small businesses, with faster and easier access to trade data and information on potential export markets.
An early version of HelpMeTrade.org was launched at the WTO’s 11th Ministerial Conference in Argentina, in December 2017. Under the Memorandum of Understanding, the WTO, ITC and UNCTAD agree to further develop the platform, with the aim of improving the quality and accessibility of trade information needed by businesses – and in particular, micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) – to access market opportunities.
As part of the agreement, the three organisations will provide technical assistance to developing countries to help them maintain up-to-date information in the Global Trade Helpdesk and will raise awareness among MSMEs about how to benefit from this trade information.
It will contain comprehensive information from various sources on market requirements such as tariffs, taxes, relevant health and safety standards for export products, and export and import procedures such as pre-shipment formalities, certification and inspection processes. Business opportunities such as market prices and upcoming events, and current trade statistics will also feature.
Development of the Helpdesk is expected to take place over three three-year phases. However, it is scheduled to be fully functional in phase one.
In addition to drawing on data from ITC, UNCTAD and the WTO, the Helpdesk will integrate trade information from a number of other international organisations and development banks, including the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the World Bank Group.
It is expected that by making trade data freely available through a user-friendly interface, the Helpdesk will make it easier for companies across the world to increase their participation in world trade and reduce trade costs. It is also expected to help policymakers make better-informed decisions about trade and investment policies and will ensure that the international community provides better support to MSMEs.
“Gaining access to information on tariffs and other requirements for accessing export markets imposes costs on firms wishing to trade, and for small businesses this can be a substantial barrier to market entry,” says WTO director-general Roberto Azevêdo. “The Global Trade Helpdesk is a joint endeavour to help remove this barrier by providing businesses with the critical information they need. It will be particularly helpful for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, which need reliable data to pinpoint export opportunities. Much of the success of this initiative will depend on the engagement of all WTO members to make information related to trade available so that it can be fed into the Global Trade Helpdesk. We all have a role to play to make this vital project a success.”