United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)

Established in 1964, UNCTAD promotes the development-friendly integration of developing countries into the world economy. UNCTAD has progressively evolved into an authoritative knowledge-based institution whose work aims to help shape current policy debates and thinking on development, with a particular focus on ensuring that domestic policies and international action are mutually supportive in bringing about sustainable development. As of October 2012, 194 countries are UNCTAD Members. Its headquarters are located at Geneva, Switzerland.

The organization works to fullfil this mandate by carrying out three key functions. It functions as a forum for intergovernmental deliberations, supported by discussions with experts and exchanges of experience, aimed at consensus building. It undertakes research, policy analysis and data collection for the debates of government representatives and experts.

It provides technical assistance tailored to the specific requirements of developing countries, with special attention to the needs of the least developed countries and of economies in transition. When appropriate, UNCTAD cooperates with other organizations and donor countries in the delivery of technical assistance.

In performing its functions, the secretariat works together with member Governments and interacts with organizations of the United Nations system and regional commissions, as well as with governmental institutions, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, including trade and industry associations, research institutes and universities worldwide.

Preferential Trade Agreements

Preferential Trade Agreements (PTAs) have been proliferating, especially since the establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1994. As of 1st December 2015, the WTO had received notifications of no less than 619 PTAs (disaggregated by goods, services, or accessions), of which 413 were already in force. Between 2008 and 2012, PTAs grew at an average year-on-year rate of 24 percent. All WTO members except Mongolia have concluded at least one PTA, while some, such as the European Union, Chile, and Mexico, have concluded more than 20. In the mid-1990s, about 75 percent of PTAs were regional; by 2003, this share had dropped to about 50 percent Within the broad category of PTAs, one can distinguish five forms, listed below, with each subsequent arrangement being a deeper form of integration, requiring more coordination and a greater loss of autonomy.

Partial Scope Agreement (PSA)

A PSA is only partial in scope, meaning it allows for trade between countries on a small number of goods.

Free Trade Agreement (FTA)

A free trade agreement is a preferential arrangement in which members reduce tariffs on trade among themselves, while maintaining their own tariff for trade with non-members.

Customs Union (CU)

A customs union (CU) is a free-trade agreement in which members apply a common external tariff (CET) schedule to imports from non-members.

Common Market (CM)

A common market is a customs union where movement of factors of production is relatively free amongst member countries.

Economic Union (EU)

An economic union is a common market where member countries coordinate macro-economic and exchange rate policies.

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