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    Building the Essential Partnerships


    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 3/2004

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    New business realities demand new partnerships for effective trade strategies.

    Export strategies are the key to helping a critical mass of firms succeed, not just the individual companies that make it despite the odds. The strategies must focus on more than trade promotion and embrace development if countries are to increase exports. This shift implies new partnerships, as well as changed roles for traditional partners.

    First, business and government need to work more closely. Partnership balances the public sector's power to create better business conditions with the private sector's ability to create jobs and exports.

    Often business and government don't trust each other and have different goals. They do, however, have a common goal in wanting economic prosperity. Governments should lead strategy development. But as the "doer" of trade, business needs to become a more involved and informed trade development partner.

    Second, trade development strategists must reach out to new players. Why? From environmental trade barriers to technological compatibility, new trends affect trade. National standards bodies, communications technology entities, banks and investment institutions, labour organizations, women entrepreneurs' groups, environmental industry groups, arbitration and mediation centres, and educational institutions are just a few of those that offer keys to competitiveness, as the topics in this publication have shown. Bringing them into a broader trade support network helps countries use export development as a stepping-stone to economic growth.

    Third, for partnerships to work, they need to be anchored in mutually agreed strategies, with realistic priorities, targets, responsibilities and means to achieve them. Strategies are a basis for building confidence among partners. They provide a baseline to monitor results. By formalizing them, there is also a better chance for continuity. Strategies can suffer from short political cycles or turnover in business leadership. The departure of a key official can spell the decline of a strategy. Whether partnerships are based on export councils, industry clusters, incubators, legislation or other arrangements depends on local circumstances; but vibrant partnerships are essential to making export strategies succeed.


    • Closer business-government partnership. Build trust through regular dialogue on export-related issues, such as trade negotiation positions and infrastructure to help businesses meet quality standards and assess new market opportunities.
    • More informed business sector. At national and sector levels, analyse the impact of trade policy on business, to advise government. Be proactive in communicating with government agencies.
    • Networking with competitiveness players. Trade strategists should consult more broadly, including with public and private sector institutions dealing with finance, industry development and research. Use communications technologies to help networking activities.
    • Methodologies for strategies. These help set priorities in a transparent manner and provide a road map.

    How ITC Can Help

    • The Executive Forum on National Export Strategies consolidates public-private partnerships in demand and supply-side issues, and operational and developmental issues. Countries must participate as business-government teams to network with others and research "best practices".
    • ITC helps with sectoral strategies, bringing together public and private sector partners and providing tools to develop and implement them jointly.
    • The World Conference of Trade Promotion Organizations (TPOs) is a networking event organized by TPOs every two years and co-sponsored by ITC. TPO leaders share experiences in using trade promotion tools and identify ways to develop trade in a fast-changing environment. The World TPO Awards, inaugurated in Malta in October 2004, recognize the best TPOs according to their peers' judgement.