Business Survey on Obstacle to Services Trade

Building on the success of its Business Surveys on Non-Tariff Measures focusing on merchandise trade, ITC has expanded the scope of its investigation in order to voice the concerns of services providers accessing international markets.

Why focus on services trade? 

Services have become the main economic sector and a key development driver in many developing countries and LDCs. While trade in services is expanding at a fast pace, a large potential remains untapped. Realizing this potential can help to meet the SDG target 17.12 (i.e. doubling the World share of Developing countries’ and LDCs exports) and generate positive spill over effects across the whole Agenda 2030. However, information on obstacles affecting service exports is scattered across different national institutions, seldom supported by solid statistical evidence and often not reflecting the perspective of SMEs. Lack of understanding of the services economy and poor coordination at the national level hamper opportunities to boost productivity and trade in this vital sector.

Objectives of the survey

The business surveys designed by ITC aim to provide a powerful diagnostic tool to identify the obstacles faced by service providers when accessing foreign markets and global value chains. Thanks to a proven survey methodology and a set of tailored sectoral questionnaires, trade policy makers and trade support institutions will be able to consult detailed information (at the level of the specific service activity and partner country involved) on the challenges affecting service exports, in order to:

  • Gain a deeper understanding of the actions needed to bridge the gap between regulatory focus and operators’ needs
  • Identify bottlenecks at the intersection between services and goods trade, whose removal can unleash synergies and increase export performance
  • Design appropriate trade-related interventions to address regulatory, procedural and business environment obstacles based on better-informed policy and investment decisions

Service sectors covered by the survey

The service clusters currently covered by the ITC business surveys present inclusive value chains, strong synergies with merchandise trade and cover approximately 60% to 70% of developing countries and LDCs service exports. These clusters are:

  • Freight transport and logistics services: These services presents deep linkages with trade in goods. Better understanding of the main obstacles related to this sector can help to boost regional and international trade by reducing trade costs and improving the quality of wholesale and retail distribution services provided.
  • Travel and tourism services: They represent an important source of revenue for LDCs and, thus, became an integral part of national development strategies. Inclusive tourism value chains bring new opportunities for industries such as retail or agriculture, creating employment and reducing poverty.
  • Information and communication technology services: ICT services represent one of the most dynamic components of the international trade in services and are an important trigger to value creation. ICT services enhance tradability of services and goods and constitute a key enhancer of online retail.

More service sectors will soon be covered by ITC. Stay tuned!