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    Is Your Trade Support Network Working?(3)


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

    All companies today face a highly competitive economic environment in global markets. Large corporations often have the resources to develop a competitive edge without recourse to trade support institutions. But for enterprises in developing and transition economies, finding the means to improve their competitiveness and showcase their products internationally is far more difficult. They must be able to meet the basic prerequisites for international participation: goods and services available for export that meet the standards and expectations of the market; and the ability to develop export management skills.

    Such companies need assistance to be able to meet these prerequisites and this is where trade support networks of various kinds enter the picture. Ideally operating within a comprehensive national export strategy, these networks of players - including private and public sector agencies such as banks, trade support institutions (TSIs), business associations and trade commissions - all work towards a common goal of improving national competitiveness, which in turn boosts the country's economy and creates jobs.

    In this issue of Forum we examine the critical elements needed to create and sustain an effective trade support network. Starting by emphasizing the need for a national export strategy (not common in developing and transition countries) to be the key pillar of the country's economic framework, we trace the ITC Executive Forum process, using the lessons learned to illustrate the principal issues confronting a trade support network that seeks to be effective.

    In our Market Profile, we focus on trade craft fairs as a means of allowing artisanal producers to showcase their products internationally. In Exporting Better, contributions offer the experiences of several industrialized and developing countries in benefiting from private sector-driven networks; another article focuses on how small and medium-sized enterprises can obtain financial and other assistance from the banking sector.

    Our Close Up feature offers insight into what constitutes "best practice" in developing a national trade support network, while the views of our partners pinpoint various types of networks operating in their respective countries. Should networks be formal or informal? Should they be private or public sector driven? Should they be a combination of both?

    Whatever the ideal, the goal of all trade support networks is to help a country's enterprises to be successful exporters. ITC contributes to this process by offering managers of public and private sector TSIs the information and tools they need to assist local companies to be better exporters. It provides market data and studies, operating guidelines and training kits to its developing country partners. Finally, through its product-network approach refined through the Executive Forum series, ITC's objective is to build on operational support tools and develop best- practice scenarios at the strategic level so that a country's trade support network truly meets the needs of its potential exporters.

    Sandra Woods, Acting Editor