Government officials, researchers and traders from 32 countries have benefitted from a training programme of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) on non-tariff measures (NTMs) and collection of data on these measures.
Insiders say a room in the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, was abuzz on October 7 as civil society groups and UNCTAD met to discuss trade and climate change for the third edition of the organisation’s HiveTalks.
The event, which brought together two dozen civil society representatives and UNCTAD experts, took the form of several rounds of moderated brainstorming on how trade could be a driver of climate action, and what commerce would look like in a future that is two degrees Celsius warmer.
Participants circulated between groups to “cross-pollinate” new ideas and take advantage of the collective intelligence in the room – the ways bees work in a hive.
UNCTAD Deputy Secretary-General Isabelle Durant said, “ideas are always more innovative when they come from a group’s diverse experiences and expertise. That’s the beauty of the HiveTalks model”, adding that the methodology forces organisations to break from the traditional panel set-up.
“Participants are reluctant at first because it’s a new way of working”, she said. “But once the process gets going, the energy and creativity comes naturally.”
The different rounds of discussion were led by UNCTAD experts Claudia Roethlisberger from the Africa and least developed countries division, Martine Julsaint from the technology and logistics division, and three members of the organisation’s trade division: David Vivas, Jeanelle Clarke and Robert Hamwey.
The topics were “Consumer choices and climate-friendly trade”, “Green tech and climate-friendly trade” and “E-commerce and climate-friendly trade”.
Durant said she would reflect on the recommendations and see how UNCTAD could use them to enrich its work on trade and climate change.
The 51 trainees (32 women and 19 men) who took the sixth edition of the annual course via UNCTAD’s e-learning platform from July to September deepened their knowledge on how to use NTMs to foster market access and sustainable development.
“Non-tariff measures inhabit the grey zone where trade policy meets national regulation”, UNCTAD’s Chief of Trade Information, Ralf Peters said.
Some 90% of traded goods are affected by NTMs but information on these measures is not always readily available. This compounds other concerns, such as the need for national streamlining of NTMs and regulatory cooperation at the regional and multilateral level to reduce any adverse effects of the measures.
The seven-week course helped the trainees understand the policy issues their countries face in international trade and equipped them to collect, classify and/or analyse NTMs.
It focused on NTMs’ definition, theory, relevant research, classification, data collection and provided useful templates.
“It served as a forum for researchers, traders, and government officers from all over the world to exchange ideas on implementing the knowledge from the course in their work and research”, said Chi Le Ngo, the course tutor from UNCTAD’s trade analysis branch.
“It was eye-opening to know exactly what regulations to look for in order to obtain the whole picture of trade regulation, especially from a trade facilitation perspective”, said Thandeka Dlamini, a consultant from the National Trade Facilitation Secretariat in Eswatini.
According to Lyza Srey, an economist at the Secretariat of the National Committee for Non-Tariff Measures in Cambodia, the course provided a solid foundation on the process of collecting NTMs data. “It has empowered me to better provide technical support to colleagues and partners”, he said.
Sara Salina Mohammed, trade and policy officer at the Trinidad and Tobago Coalition of Services Industries, said: “The knowledge I gained will be very useful for our research and recommendations from the private sector bodies we represent in policy formulation at the national level.”
“Insightful and inspiring! I will use specific concepts from this course to enrich my doctoral research proposal on the impact of NTMs on trade and welfare in my country”, said Patrick Lusenge Ndungo, researcher and teaching assistant at the University of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
UNCTAD first offered the annual online course in 2014 and has certified 300 graduates since then.