Increasing trade is key to ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity. Evidence shows that countries open to international trade tend to grow faster and provide more opportunities to their populations. The World Bank Group helps its client countries improve their access to developed country markets and enhance their participation in the world economy. On the global stage, the WBG supports an open, rules-based, predictable, international trading system.
The trade policy agenda has evolved significantly since the early 1990s when trade liberalization was the focus of the debate. Now, countries world-wide have relatively low import tariffs, and new challenges have emerged. Non-tariff measures have increased sharply, sometimes because governments hope to protect domestic industries. Restrictiveness to trade in services and limited competition in services markets remains pervasive among developing countries, reducing the scope for integration in services. Finally, the proliferation of regional and bilateral preferential trade agreements complicate the trade policy landscape.
Developing countries also struggle with indirect factors that hinder their access to global markets, such as anti-competitive business practices, regulatory environments that are unfavorable to business growth and investment, or limited infrastructure capacity. Even a country with liberal and transparent trade policy suffers if its markets are not connected, and many of the “bottom billion” live in countries – or regions of countries – that are landlocked, remote, or otherwise ill-served by international trade links. The World Bank Group (WBG) is the main multilateral provider of Aid for Trade, development assistance designed to help developing countries more effectively engage in international trade. Experts within the WBG’s Trade and Competitiveness Global Practice are working around the world to help the institution’s clients overcome the obstacles they face.