Current portal location

Website content

Aid for Trade

Aid for Trade (AfT) is assistance provided to support partner countries' efforts to develop and expand their trade as leverage for growth and poverty reduction.

Aid for Trade in a nutshell

Aid for Trade is part of Official Development Aid (ODA) related to improving countries’ capacity to trade and is categorised according to the following six areas:

  • trade policy and regulation
  • trade development
  • trade-related infrastructure
  • building productive capacity
  • trade-related adjustment, and
  • other trade-related needs.

This can include support for building new transport, energy or telecommunications infrastructure, investments in agriculture, fisheries and services, as well as assistance in managing any balance of payments shortfalls due to changes in the world trading environment.

Categories 1, 2 and 6 correspond to core trade issues and are designated as Trade-Related Assistance.The other three categories include capacity building and infrastructure. Together, they are referred to as ‘the wider Aid for Trade agenda’, designed to benefit trade in a broader sense.

Aid for Trade – and more particularly Trade-Related Assistance – can help partner countries take advantage of opportunities created by unilateral, bilateral or multilateral trade openings and hence it is an important tool to facilitate trade reforms or adjustments.

Why Aid for Trade is relevant

Many developing countries face internal constraints such as a lack of productive capacity, poor infrastructure, poor trade diversification, inefficient customs procedures, excessive red tape and difficulties to meet technical standards in high value export markets. This has a negative impact on their ability to trade and on the competitiveness of their exports.

Aid for Trade – and more particularly Trade-Related Assistance – can help partner countries take advantage of opportunities created by unilateral, bilateral or multilateral trade openings and hence it is an important tool to facilitate trade reforms, improve the business environment, support regional integration and provide opportunities to integrate into global value chains. It is an important part of a long-term strategy for global poverty reduction, alongside debt relief and general development aid.

The contribution of trade for achieving inclusive growth and sustainable development is also emphasised in the EU development policy, notably the Communication on "Increasing the Impact of EU Development Policy: an Agenda for Change" issued in October 2011.

EU trade policy and Aid for Trade

The EU and its Member States are collectively the world's leading providers of Aid for Trade. The European Commission produces an annual monitoring report on EU Aid for Trade The 2015 edition, reporting on figures from 2013, notably highlighted that:

  • With a total of EUR 11.7bn in 2013 the EU consolidate consecutive record amounts after EUR 11.5bn in 2012. The EU and its Member States therefore remained by a large margin the most significant Aid for Trade (AfT) donor in the world.
  • After a drop of 17% in 2012, EU and Member State Trade Related Assistance (TRA) commitments recovered in 2013, with an increase of 13%, to reach EUR 2.9bn, the second all-time highest amount. This level exceeds by a large margin the EUR 2bn target adopted in the 2007 joint EU Aid for Trade Strategy.
  • Africa received again the largest share of grants in 2013, with 55% of EU Collective grants. After a long period of decline in relative terms, Aid for Trade commitments to Least Developed Countries increased notably by over 40% in 2013, reaching EUR 2.6bn or 24% of the total in 2013 (to be compared to EUR 1.8bn in 2012 or 17% of the total).

Financing for Aid for Trade

Aid for Trade is part of overall EU Official Development Assistance so aid for different countries is financed through different instruments:

  • the European Development Fund for African, Caribbean and Pacific countries
  •  the Development Cooperation Instrument or its successor, the European Neighbourhood Instrument for other developing countries
  • the Instrument for Pre-Accession where it covers developing countries (e.g. Turkey which is the biggest receiver of EU Aid for Trade)

The EU and its Member States have a Joint Strategy on Aid for Trade from 2007 which includes the following key goals:

  • Implement the commitment by EU Member States and the European Commission to collectively spend €2 billion annually on Trade-Related Assistance by 2010. This was exceeded already in 2008 and 2009.
  • Enhance the pro-poor focus and the quality of EU Aid for Trade.
  • Build upon, foster and support regional integration processes through Aid for Trade, including within African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.
  • Increase EU-wide and Member States' capacity in line with the globally agreed aid effectiveness principles.
  • Support effective Aid for Trade monitoring and reporting.

Moreover, the EU and other donors agreed, in the context of the G20 to maintain, beyond 2011, the wider Aid for Trade spending at levels that reflect at least the average of the years 2006-2008 and to work with development banks to ensure the availability of trade finance to low-income countries.

Aid for Trade and WTO

The importance devoted to Aid for Trade stems from the Aid for Trade Initiative launched at the December 2005 WTO Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong as a complement to the Doha Development Agenda.

The Aid for Trade Initiative did not aim to create a new global development fund for trade, but to work on the basis of existing development strategies with the aim of ensuring that more resources are devoted to trade.

Keeping Aid for Trade on the political agenda is essential to mobilise additional, predictable, sustainable and effective financing for trade, thus contributing to inclusive growth and sustainable development.

The recent WTO Ministerial Conference (MC9) in Bali in December 2013 produced a ministerial decision which reiterated the need for Aid for Trade and continued the mandate to pursue actions, but without making any specific commitments.

More on Aid for Trade

Aid for Trade in other Commission departments
Other resources