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  • Fundamental Principles

    To ensure success when ITC agrees to work with a country, the following seven principles and characteristics are applied:
    The Seven Principles  


    The process of creating the strategy is as important as the content itself. The key to this process is ownership. Those responsible for managing and monitoring a strategy, those who implement it and those who stand to benefit from it need to be involved in its formulation. If those groups are not involved then there is no commitment and limited interest. The Paris Declaration made it clear that country ownership is fundamental to aid effectiveness. And fundamental to ownership is a national strategy developed through “broad consultative processes”.

    Inclusive and consultative

    The NES initiative involves public and private sector stakeholders as well as representatives of civil society, NGOs, unions and academia that are involved in, or have a bearing on, international trade and export competitiveness. The quality and relevance of the resulting NES relies on the full engagement of national stakeholders and their substantive contributions. In ITC’s experience, the ‘best practice’ model includes the establishment of a formal public-private dialogue platform, such as a National Export Council, at an early stage to guide and manage the process.

    Capacity-building orientated

    The principal objective of ITC’s technical assistance is to strengthen the ability of partner countries to formulate, manage and implement export development strategies that are relevant and realistic. ITC does not design the strategies, but rather it improves skill levels within the country. It also aims to develop the skills that are required for stakeholders to refine their strategy in the future. 

    Builds on and integrates national plans

    A NES initiative takes into account other relevant plans, studies and programmes in the country. It builds on, rather than duplicates, what the country has already evaluated and prioritized then ensures consistency with the government’s policy objectives.

    Comprehensive in scope

    To be truly relevant, a NES must have a combined competitiveness and developmental orientation. ITC’s methodology allows priorities to be set across three competitiveness dimensions: (i) supply-side capacities and how to improve these by encouraging diversification whilst ensuring that there is the right kind of human capital; (ii) the quality of the business environment by making sure that transaction costs are competitive, that bureaucracies are kept to a minimum and are efficient, that there is the right kind of supporting trade infrastructure, including an appropriate regulatory framework; and (iii) demand side conditions, including the country’s multilateral and bilateral trade agreements, and national promotion, branding and market entry. In the NES, all these competitive dimensions are aligned with the country’s broader developmental objectives of reducing poverty, creating employment, ending gender bias, improving environmental sustainability, and regional integration.

    Sets needs-based, market-led priorities

    Resources for export development are limited, therefore priorities must be set. Priorities must be determined at the levels of policy-makers, trade support institutions, and enterprises by analysing the needs which provide the best prospects for export development and competitiveness according to actual market conditions and demand. In other words, national export strategies address constraints and identify opportunities that would achieve maximum export impact in the country.

    Specific and measurable

    The strategy does not stop at defining broad objectives. Rather, it details what should be done to achieve objectives in actionable steps at the operational level. Targets and impact measures are also specified. This promotes transparency and understanding in the country of which actions directly contribute to export development and competitiveness.

    The Four Phases of National Export Strategy Design and Management

    The NES design and management process, including the key milestones set under each phase, are illustrated below (Click on the thumbnail to see the full chart): 

     four phrases chart 

    Timing and Timelines

    Based on experience in other countries, a NES will typically require twelve work months to complete from the start of the Inception Phase. Clearly, the time required to complete each task may vary depending on the responsiveness of counterparts in the country.

    Timing and timelines 

    The Outputs

    The principal output is an endorsed, coherent, comprehensive and prioritized strategy document complete with a plan of action and implementation management framework. Interim outputs include:

    • Governance structures established and NES preliminary audits conducted
    • Completed analyses of the country’s exports, imports and investment performance, as well as main markets and competitors over the past five years
    • Defined scope and principal objectives of the NES and identification of priority sectors and cross-sector functions to enable the country to allocate scarce resources effectively
    • Elaborated detailed sector and cross-sector strategies; complete with corresponding plan of action and implementation frameworks
    • NES consolidated document aggregating sector and cross-sector strategies
    • Endorsement of the NES by stakeholders and the national government
    • A formal public-private dialogue platform focusing on export development and competitiveness, e.g. National Export Council (NEC), either established or reinforced.

    Additional details are provided in the Logframe which can be downloaded in the NES Concept Note.

    The Outcomes

    The principal outcomes of a NES design and management initiative are listed below. These are elaborated in the NES Logframe, which can be downloaded in the NES Concept Note.
    Short-term outcomes:

    • Empowered national stakeholders capable of contributing to export development activities
    • Improved public and private dialogue supporting the development of a national export culture
    • Enhanced awareness of available options for export development and how to mainstream trade into national planning and policies
    • Improved ability of the country to receive and utilize Aid-for-Trade
    • Medium-term outcomes:
    • An improved policy framework to support the development and competitiveness of the export sector
    • Increased capabilities of private and public institutions to support and stimulate exports through the provision of relevant and accessible trade support services
    • Strengthening of the country’s policy makers, TSIs and enterprises abilities to formulate and manage export development strategies that are relevant and realistic
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