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    Export quality management programme: ITC overcoming technical barriers to trade


    International Trade Forum - Issue 3/2010

    More than 900 regulators and industry representatives were trained and provided support

    Quality is a prerequisite for successful market access and increasing revenues from export, but meeting technical requirements in the international marketplace is a challenge for many exporters.

    According to ITC research, approximately 80% of the problems faced by exporters are in the area of technical barriers to trade (TBT) and sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS). ITC experience suggests that exporters in developing countries experience four main challenges to overcoming technical barriers to trade and in accessing new markets:

    •  Obtaining information about the mandatory technical regulations and voluntary standards applicable in the importing country;
    • Adapting their products to meet these requirements efficiently;
    • Demonstrating that the products meet the relevant requirements; and
    • Obtaining the necessary support at each step from the national quality infrastructure, which in many developing countries is not up to standard.

    ITC's Export Quality Management Programme has developed an integrated approach to overcoming these challenges with a two-part strategy that includes capacity building through training programmes and advisory services to enterprises, conformity assessment bodies and policy-makers.
    Knowing Technical Requirements

    Standards and conformity assessment play a key role in facilitating trade but it can be difficult for small and medium-sized exporters to understand the complex issues involved. Through sector-specific workshops and practical guidebooks, ITC seeks to inform exporters and trade support institutions about the technical requirements in these sectors.

    For example, the export potential of developing countries in fisheries is hampered by the lack of awareness about requirements for exporting fish and fishery products. To address this, workshops were organized in many South Asian countries, where representatives of the private sector and the competent authority gained a common understanding of the issues involved. The workshops were supported by an easy-to-understand Export Quality bulletin, entitled Exporting Seafood to the EU.

    The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) established a Cosmetic Harmonized Regulatory Scheme that emphasizes post-market surveillance instead of pre-market approval and good manufacturing practice to facilitate trade in cosmetics in the region. The Asia Trust Fund, a joint ITC-ASEAN Secretariat initiative, helped a number of ASEAN member countries to implement this scheme through the delivery of an in-depth mentoring and training programme for more than 900 regulators and industry representatives. A network of 20 experts was established and trade in cosmetics was enhanced when the scheme came into effect in January 2008.

    In Bangladesh there was limited awareness about how the WTO Agreements on TBT and SPS (see page 24) could be used to enhance market access. A train-the-trainer programme focused on developing training materials customized for local trainers in various sectors, taking into account national needs. Workshops on these agreements were conducted across a number of sectors including fisheries, horticulture, agro-processed foods, textile and leather products. More than 300 participants from the private sector and government are now in a better position to obtain information on and comply with technical requirements. Furthermore, after the completion of the ITC programme, local trainers established STCG - an SPS/TBT consulting group which aims to educate other stakeholders through workshops and collaboration with trade bodies.
     Improving Quality and Meeting Complex Technical Requirements
     There is also a need for small and medium enterprises to implement basic quality-control measures to enhance their export readiness. In Bangladesh, ITC intervention had a positive impact in the light engineering sector. For example, one particular business saw a 30% increase in productivity combined with a 20% increase in sales and a 4% reduction in product returns within six months.

    In Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, ITC advisory services on the implementation of ISO 22000 standards for food safety management enabled the export of agro-processed foods to the German market. This approach was further refined in Bangladesh where trainer-cum-counsellor competencies were upgraded to ensure sustainability after completion of the project.

    Without managing the whole supply chain, it is becoming increasingly difficult to do business in the international market. In Bangladesh, ITC conducted workshops with 25 exporters to improve the compliance rate of horticulture products with the requirements of regions such as the Middle East and the European Union (EU). Exporters were trained on various aspects of good agricultural practice, cold-chain management, traceability, contract farming, packaging, quality and marketing. As a result of the project, 10 exporters formed the Bangladesh Agro Produce Exporting Company (BAPEXCO) Ltd, a joint venture applying the project recommendations to contracted farmers and marketing their produce under a common brand.

    Demonstrating Conformity to Technical Requirements

    After meeting the requirements of target markets, exporters have to demonstrate conformity that is acceptable to buyers and regulators. Unfortunately, the lack of accredited conformity assessment bodies in many developing countries results in enterprises having to undergo costly recourse to foreign bodies. ITC provides advisory services to existing conformity assessment bodies to enable them to be accredited or recognized in target markets. As an example, the competent authority for fisheries in the Philippines was strengthened to enable it to maintain its recognized status with the EU, thus the export of fisheries to the EU, which was under threat, was maintained.


    Upgrading Quality Infrastructure
    Strengthening quality infrastructure is complex, expensive and time-consuming, but it is a crucial element in ensuring competitiveness of the export sector. For example, countries which were part of the former Soviet Union did not meet international quality infrastructure requirements due to conflict of interest because the same body was responsible for conformity assessment and accreditation. The quality infrastructure was assessed in four Central Asian countries, previously part of the former Soviet Union, and technical assistance was provided to close some of the gaps and bring them closer to international requirements.

    The assessment indicated the need to develop a methodology which resulted in the ITC publication Road Map for Quality - Guidelines for the Review of the Standardization, Quality Management, Accreditation and Metrology (SQAM) Infrastructure at National Level. It was used recently in Chad where a road map was set up for the development of a national quality system, with emphasis on the establishment of a national standards body. The road map has been accepted and resources are being mobilized for its implementation.

    Further reading: See the Directory on page 39 for relevant ITC tools and publications. For information about ITC assistance in Export Quality Management (Enterprise Competitiveness Section) visit www.intracen.org/eqm or contact quality@intracen.org