While the activities most typically associated
with the trade ministry concern relations with its
foreign counterparts, the day-to-day operations of
that ministry will more typically involve domestic
consultations. Properly conceived, the most important
function of the trade ministry in a developing country is
to ensure that country’s trade instruments — including
its international agreements and domestic laws —
serve the broader interest of promoting national
development. The trade ministry is also tasked with
ensuring that the other laws and agreements of the
country are consistent with the legal obligations that it
has undertaken in WTO and other agreements. Taken
together, these functions constitute the domestic
diplomacy of trade policymaking. In order to act
effectively as the country’s agent abroad, the ministry
must be intimately engaged in policymaking at home.
That domestic diplomacy requires that the ministry
in charge of this topic coordinate closely with
other government agencies, and consult fully with
representatives of civil society. 

That is necessary not
Box 6. Capacity-building programmes for trade officials
Numerous programmes are available to help trade ministries and other government agencies overcome their skills deficits.
Some of these are hosted (and often paid for) by international organizations, while others are offered by universities on
either a degree or a non-degree basis.
The choice of which type of programme to pursue, and where to pursue it, depends in part on how much time and money
a ministry or its employees can afford to invest. While tuition and other costs for some university programmes can be high,
assistance may be available from development banks and other donors; further information can be had from the WTO’s
Global Trade-Related Technical Assistance Database. For those already in government, the most significant expense may
be the opportunity cost of time spent out of the office. The investment should nevertheless pay off if programmes impart
the needed skills. Expenses can also be reduced by using the online training modules that WTO increasingly favours over
face-to-face courses.
UNCTAD provides toolbox on trade-related capacity building support and training for trade negotiators and policymakers
from developing countries on Trade Policy Frameworks, multilateral and regional trade negotiations including WTO
accession, and services development and trade, including Services Policy Reviews (SPRs). Of particular note is UNCTAD’s
toolkit on services, combining analytical studies on all aspects of services including services sector development and
structural transformation, Service Policy Reviews, Multi-year Expert Meeting on Trade Services and Development and the
Global Services Forum. Through SPRs, UNCTAD supports policymakers in assessing the potential of services capacities
as well as various options for policy, regulatory and institutional frameworks, the findings of which could be fed into
national policymaking and international trade negotiating process. Trade Policy Framework supported national trade policy
stakeholders in raising awareness and building their understanding on the contribution of trade to sustainable development
and the formulation of Sustainable Development Goal-oriented trade policy frameworks.
Training is also available from universities, where programmes can last anywhere from days to years. At one extreme are
the masters or even doctoral programmes in public policy that allow students to specialize in trade and related fields.

Paris School of International Affairs and Sciences Po, for example, jointly administer a Master’s in International Economic
Policy programme. Some universities have specialized, one-year programmes that grant interdisciplinary master’s degrees
in this field, such as: The International Economic Law and Policy (IELPO) programme at the University of Barcelona; The
Shridath Ramphal Centre for International Trade Law, Policy and Services, University of the West Indies; and, The University
of Bern’s World Trade Institute has a programme.
Some universities have much shorter executive education programmes that are built around the needs of busy professionals.
The Harvard Kennedy School’s course entitled Mastering Trade Policy compresses a semester of economics, law, and
negotiations theory into 10 intensive days. Other schools with non-degree programmes on trade and related topics include
the College of Europe, the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, the London School of Economics,
and the Monterey Institute of International Studies. Some schools also offer specialized courses to be delivered either onsite or at the university’s home campus.
merely to ensure that trade policy per se is effective,
but also to make it consonant with the broader
development goals of the country. While trade and
development goals are not in direct conflict, reconciling
their sometimes-divergent objectives can raise difficult
questions of priorities and coherence.
The expanding subject matter of trade policy multiplies
the risk that officials in different areas of public policy
might work at cross purposes. In the absence of
a cooperative and collegial approach among all
ministries with an interest in trade-related matters,
negotiators will not have the information they need
to reach agreements with their foreign counterparts,
nor can they be certain of receiving the political
support necessary to approve and implement these
agreements at home. In this age of deeper integration
and wider commitments, there is also greater jeopardy
that a ministry with jurisdiction over some traderelated topic (broadly defined) may unknowingly take
action that violates a pledge the country has made to
its partners in WTO or some other trade agreement.

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