Rules-based trade system

SECO creates favourable framework conditions for international trade. These increase the chances of developing countries on overseas markets and boost the competitiveness of their producers and companies.

Trade is key for the growth and competitiveness of economies and companies, even more so in the face of rising protectionist tendencies. In a highly integrated and interdependent global economy, appropriate framework conditions are crucial in harnessing the benefits of international trade.

Developing countries often do not have the institutional and technical infrastructure in place to seize the opportunities of globalisation. International trade in goods and services is subject to a complex set of rules. National laws and regulations have been aligned with the rules of the multilateral trading system since the middle of the twentieth century. The World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva has been monitoring compliance with various trade agreements since 1995. Over the past two decades, countries have concluded many bilateral and regional trade agreements, further opening up access to markets.


Over 50 per cent of goods cross borders as components, often multiple times.


Additionally, international rules for trade cover an increasing number of issues. Negotiations over trade agreements now involve not only tariff reductions, but also technical standards and the liberalisation of markets for services. The social and ecological effects of trade are gaining importance, as do the protection of intellectual property, the regulation and promotion of digital commerce (e-commerce), and the elimination of overly complex customs procedures.

In order to create favourable framework conditions in developing countries, a wide range of actors must work together and continuously improve their expertise in a very complex and challenging trade system.

Men load goods onto a merchant vessel in a port.
SECO supports projects that promote sustainable trade in natural products.

Knowing the rules

SECO funds training to improve the knowledge of local authorities, the private sector and knowledge bearers in the field of international trade law and trade policy.

Defining and complying with standards

Uniform and adequate technical standards facilitate trade in goods. Achieving this requires international actors to work closely together and, at the same time, to construct and uphold a functioning system of standards on a national level.

Facilitating trade

SECO supports its partner countries in making cross-border movements of goods easier. To do so, it helps them define and implement efficient and practical customs procedures.

Promoting policy coherence and sustainability

In the interest of policy coherence, SECO promotes sustainable trade agreements that comply with international environmental, climate and labour standards. This promotes international trade, while protecting the environment, the climate, workers and biodiversity.

Last modification 31.03.2021

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