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    A Focal Point Approach to Export Promotion


    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 1/2002

    The Export Development Board (EDB) of Sri Lanka was set up in 1979 by an Act of Parliament as the focal point export promotion organization. At that time, the economy was liberalized with the state recognizing the private sector as the "engine of growth". The EDB has both public and private sector high-level representatives and is responsible for formulating and implementing the National Export Development Plan (NEDP), as well as export development policies and programmes.

    However, in recent years, the quality of EDB's support services has diminished. Under its leadership, there was inadequate coordination and integration of services provided by specialized institutions to exporters. As a consequence, EDB's image and credibility within the business community was eroded. Vital structural links with other trade support network members became dormant, while financial support from the public sector diminished, as did support from the international donor community. From this experience, several lessons were learned about what is required to achieve an effective focal-point trade promotion organization:

    • Administration and structure should have a private sector orientation.
    • To the extent possible, self-reliance should be achieved through income-generating professional services.
    • Export development programmes should emphasize impact (in EDB's case, these new approaches could include promoting business and professional services, entrepôt trade and focusing on a wider range of export product sectors).
    • An effective overseas trade support network must be put in place.

    • National export awareness should be targeted through strengthening the provincial (or regional) export support services network.
    • There should be greater emphasis on applied market research linked to strengthening trade information services using modern technologies.
    • Supply development programmes should be introduced.
    • Exporter training programmes should be broad-based and include business ethics.
    • In collaboration with universities, entrepreneurship programmes should be introduced.
    • Human resource development should become a priority in order to retain existing professional staff and attract new professionals.

    Contributed by the Sri Lanka Export Development Board. More details can be found in the Discussion Briefs section of the web site for Executive Forum 2001.