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Trade Programme


The trade programme works to develop closer economic relations among member States, as well as to better integrate their economies into the world economy. The trade programme's inter-governmental bodies make policy recommendations, develop standards for use in trade and assist member States in implementing them. These bodies also suggest ways and means of creating legal and administrative frameworks for fostering trade. Work includes a range of activities to assist member States with: trade facilitation; regulatory and standards policy; commercial agricultural standards; and e-business standards.

Key areas of work

In focus

  • UN/CEFACT’s 26th Plenary Session will take place on 4 May 2020 in Geneva. There will be elections of UN/CEFACT Vice Chairs during this session as well as the review of a number of UN/CEFACT recommendations and standards will be discussed, including the revision of Recommendation 33 on Single Window, the revision of Recommendation 16 on UN/LOCODE, the revision of Recommendation 5 on INCOTERMS, Smart Container standards, and several guidance documents.

In focus

Food loss and waste:  We are currently wasting the unimaginable amount of over 1.6 billion tons of food worth 1.2 trillion USD every year. This number will increase hugely by the year 2030 to 2.1 billion tons wasted and a value of 1.5 trillion USD (source Boston Consulting Group, 2018), if we do not take immediate action. Food loss and waste does not only mean being unable to feed the many hungry or losing money and income, it also means maintaining a food production and distribution system where natural resources are used for food that is never eaten while being responsible for 8% of the greenhouse gas emissions. Can we really afford this and neglect the wide-reaching implications of billions of tons of food lost and wasted? For more information, please consult the brand new UNECE resource page on the food loss and waste challenge.

In focus

The newly launched UNECE Portal on Standards for the SDGs portal allows users to quickly identify standards that support the goals and targets of Agenda 2030. Not a single one of the SDGs can be realized without a solid quality infrastructure basis. For example, standards on energy efficient products and services are the basis for curbing emissions while standards on emergency management will be critical to reducing the human, environmental and economic losses of disasters. At the same time, on the one hand, policymakers are insufficiently aware of, and empowered to, use standards as the basis for their choices. On the other hand, standards organizations have little awareness of how standards can contribute to the SDGs. This UNECE portal responds to this challenge by providing: a mapping tool, a series of case studies, and supporting training materials


  • UN/CEFACT has recently published several White Papers, Guidelines and Executive Guides which are available on the website
  • UN/CEFACT has over a dozen active projects ranging from Single Window recommendations to eQuality Certificates and Sustainable tourism to Blockchain. If you are interested in joining our work, please contact us at cefact@un.org 
  • UNECE’s recent Symposium on nuts and dried fruit highlighted how for many communities around the world, the sustainable trade in nuts and dried fruit is the key to improved food security, rural development and sustainable livelihoods for all including women, youth and the elderly
  • UNECE’s work on meat-cut descriptions is an important element for the growing international electronic trade in meat worldwide, the recent UNECE symposium for e-trade in meat underlined.
  • The 17th MARS Group meeting in Moscow showcased coordination possibilities of market surveillance worldwide with the example of the EU, addressed product non-compliance risk in international trade and the use of WP.6 Recommendations R, P, S and T in creating risk-based import compliance frameworks using predictive risk management tools. The meeting also outlined the important role of standards in the market surveillance agencies’ work.
  • Working Party 6, in collaboration with the Kyrgyz Economic University, organized a Workshop on Women Entrepreneurship which raised awareness regarding the challenges faced by women in business, when trading internationally, and identify measures to build capacity for increased female entrepreneurship.
  • New brochure on “Gender Responsive Standards”: Standards are often developed by technical committees where the participation of women is far below parity. Very few methodologies exist to probe if standards respond to gendered needs and to correct any gender bias in standards. The UNECE marked “World Standards Day” by raising awareness about UNECE Gender Responsive Standards Declaration, which aims at making standards work for women.
  • New brochure on “Standards for Sustainable Development”: The UNECE marked World Standards Day by launching the Standards for the SDGs Portal a vital awareness-raising tool, that allows UNECE and other standards developing organizations to highlight how their work helps advance Agenda 2030 and shares stories about successful implementation. All users are invited to use the available templates to submit information to be added to the portal.