Strengthening planning and negotiation performance for trade planning and policy

22 June 2022
ITC News

Sonam Lhendup is confident that the future holds a change for the better.

“The policy position papers on various topics have been helpful. We have submitted these papers, along with the Economic Recovery Strategy and the Foreign Direct Investment division’s institutional improvement documents, to the government for approval,” says Sonam Lhendup from the Policy and Planning Division (PPD) of the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MoEA).

His team at the department must ensure effective coordination within their Ministry as well as with the Gross National Happiness Commission Secretariat on key strategic plans to align national goals with economic growth.

He recognizes their limited capacity for undertaking negotiations, be it at a bilateral level such as the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) or at a multilateral level, within the scope of the WTO Accession process.  He admits most of their knowledge was developed through experience.

To enhance capacity on undertaking trade negotiations as well as various aspects related to trade policy, Sonam along with his colleagues at MoEA and other institutions such as Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) received capacity building on topics including trade dispute settlement, trade facilitation, methodology on business process analysis, the multinational trading system and trade negotiations among others. These sessions were designed to be hands on, practical, engaging, and replicable.

“These trainings were structured primarily for those with just basic knowledge. There was a good blend of technical as well as practical knowledge transfer, and the focus was more on the Bhutanese perspective and on ways to gauge the interplay of external factors and conditions to anticipate scenarios”, he remarked.

The intervention is also supporting to strengthen the investment strategy and regulatory framework by undertaking analysis, studies and targeted capacity building for the FDI Division within the MoEA. To support the attraction of FDIs into Bhutan, 6 investment profiles have also been developed for 6 target sectors.

The support provided proved to be most beneficial especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to pose challenges for the Bhutanese economy. The support for economic diversification and export promotion through capacity building and development of studies and position papers aims at improving the national trade and investment regulatory framework.

“The multi-pronged approach of the project enabled strengthening of the Bhutanese public sector, CSOs, private sector and SMEs, that has improved the quality of dialogue and strengthened partnerships amongst the stakeholders. These benefits will continue to manifest in the long-term,” explained Sonam.

Sonam feels that the rigorous process of developing the policy briefs has developed not only his research capacity but also his ability to clearly present these points in high-level meetings, consultations, and workshops.

Funded by the European Union, the International Trade Centre has been implementing the EU-Bhutan Trade Support project since 2018 and supporting organisations such as MoEA on strengthening their planning and negotiation performance in trade policy.