The Transparency in Trade initiative (TNT)is a joint venture launched by the African Development Bank (AfDB), the International Trade Centre (ITC), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and the World Bank, to cooperate in the trade data collection effort and to combine forces in providing users with free tools that can be used to access and analyze trade policy and market information. The TNT initiative will give users free access the data and the tools that each organization generates. This information will be accessible through this portal. TNT provides a framework through which the four agencies will cooperate to fill key data gaps that exist and work together to strengthen the capacity of institutions in developing countries to collect and report information on trade policies.
Improving transparency in trade is an important priority in the wider effort of leveraging trade for more inclusive economic growth. Market opening is of little value if firms do not know about the trade opportunities that exist. Governments need to be aware of the barriers to trade that prevail in potential export markets, and which policies are the most restrictive so that negotiations can center on removing those of highest priority. As tariffs have been gradually reduced, increasingly prevailing trade restrictions take the form of so-called non-tariff measures (NTMs). These are inherently less visible and transparent than simple tariffs. Examples include differential treatment of imports (with an initial quantity that is allowed to enter the market with a low tariff, while imports that exceed this initial amount (tariff quota) are subject to higher rates of taxation) and various types of regulations‘ – such as health, safety, product-specific technical regulations and standards, as well as sanitary and phytosanitary measures. The situation is particularly murky for firms when it comes to trade in services, where it is often necessary for companies to hire specialists to help decipher which policies determine whether they will be able to provide their services to buyers in a foreign market.
A number of international organizations have a long track record of collecting and reporting information on trade flows, applied tariffs, and prevailing NTMs. These include the ITC, UNCTAD, and the World Bank. Notwithstanding the efforts of these agencies, an important transparency gap remains, especially for NTMs and trade in services. For many countries, especially low-income economies, information on prevailing NTMs is frequently incomplete and outdated. The situation is particularly serious for African countries. Generating up-to-date information on trade policies is a major public good. Providing this good requires not just the collection, organization, and dissemination of data, but more importantly building capacity in developing countries to own and sustain the necessary data collection process. Key elements of the TNT are the tools and the underlying databases that have already been developed. These include ITC’s Market Access Map (MAcMap), UNCTAD’s Trade Analysis and Information System (TRAINS) and the World Bank’s World Integrated Trade Solution (WITS), Service Policy Restrictiveness Database (SPRD), and the Temporary Trade Barriers Database (TTBD).
TNT is a multi-year program with five major components: (i) tools— MAcMap and WITS (providing access to trade and trade barrier information); (ii) tariff data collection; (iii) non-tariff measures data collection (iv) trade remedies (antidumping, countervailing duties, safeguard actions); and (v) policies affecting trade in services.
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