GENEVA — As a result of the Enhanced Integrated Framework’s role in helping least developed countries integrate trade policy into their development and poverty reduction strategies, in December 2014 the EIF Steering Committee agreed to extend the EIF program through 2022.
The Enhanced Integrated Framework, also known as the EIF, was established in 1997 to help the least developed countries, or LDCs, participate in international trade. Studies conducted by the World Trade Organization and various U.N. agencies have continuously advocated for the important role international trade plays in national development strategies.
The EIF provides trade-related assistance to LDCs through three main initiatives: Aid for Trade, Trade Mainstreaming and Gender Equality.
Aid for Trade became a large part of the Official Development Assistance commitments through the Brussels Programme of Action for LCDs, implemented for the decade spanning 2001 to 2010 and focused specifically on efforts to eradicate poverty, including opening LDCs’ economies to global trade.
The Istanbul Programme of Action for LDCs adopted in 2011 for the decade spanning 2011 to 2020 emphasized the role international trade plays in helping countries reduce poverty. The document reemphasized the important role the Aid for Trade initiative plays in increasing LDCs’ productive capacities, fostering sustainable development and eradicating poverty.
Aid for Trade can be bilateral, regional or multilateral, however the EIF serves as the main mechanism through which countries may participate in the Aid for Trade initiative. Broadly, Aid for Trade involves development assistance given by a donor country to an LDC which is specifically used to help the LDC develop its trade capacity and enter the global marketplace. Assistance goes toward a wide range of areas including technical assistance, building infrastructure, increasing productive capacity and providing guidance on adjustment assistance.
Trade mainstreaming as defined by the EIF most basically involves “integrating trade into national development and poverty reduction strategies and the operationalization of trade coverage thereof.”
EIF projects are separated into two tiers depending on the existing trade capacities of the applicant’s infrastructure and its proposed plan to increase its capacity.
To begin a Tier 1 project an LDC must submit an application to the EIF in order to receive funds for trade assistance. Once accepted, the LDC is required to complete a Diagnostic Trade Integration Study, or DTIS, which identifies the biggest supply-side obstacles to international trade in the LDC. Then EIF and its partner organizations assist the LDC in creating a national development and poverty reduction strategy that includes trade priorities.
Tier 2 projects focus on mainstreaming trade policies in LDCs with existing national development plans. Tier 2 projects are more heavily focused on the implementation of the integrated development plans rather than the creation of such plans.
In addition to assisting LDCs increase their trade capacity, the EIF also works to eliminate economic gender inequalities that exist in many of 47 countries currently participating in the program. The Millennium Development Goals sought to eliminate gender inequalities mainly with regard to education and political participation.
However, with the deadline for the Sustainable Development Agenda approaching, the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development, or UNCTAD, argues in a recent policy brief that the new SDGs should promote gender equality in all sectors of society, especially in trade policy. UNCTAD argues LDCs’ trade policies could be significantly more successful if elements promoting the economic empowerment of women were inserted into the integrated national development strategies.
Women run a significantly larger portion of the small-to-medium-sized businesses in LDCs, but are prohibited from entering the global market due to a variety of factors such as wage disparities, gender segmentation in the labor market, inadequate access to financial resources such as savings accounts and credit and traditional gender roles. Therefore, in cooperation with the International Trade Center, or ITC, the EIF works to help LDCs create more gender-neutral trade environments and development plans that allow both men and women to participate in the global economy.
Through a recent evaluation of the program, the EIF Steering Committee found the EIF program to be integral in helping LDCs improve their trade capacities and infrastructures. Going forward however the EIF plans to reform its program in order to address some concerns voiced by LDCs mainly regarding the stringent project application process. Through the current process projects generally take over a year to get approved. In recognition of these frustrations, the EIF has adopted recommendations to streamline the application process in order to make it more flexible and easier for LDCs to gain project approval.
– Erin Sullivan
Sources: Enhanced Integrated Framework 1, Enhanced Integrated Framework 2, Enhanced Integrated Framework 3, Enhanced Integrated Framework 4, WTO 1, WTO 2, WTO 3, WTO 4, WTO 5, WTO 6,
UNCTAD, World Bank, International Trade Centre, UN-OHRLLS