Trade Research Institutions in Asia-Pacific: Capacity-Building Needs in Developing countries
Short-Term Study No. 1 - November 2005
Hing Vutha, Larry Strange and K.A.S. Murshid


The Cambodia Development Resource Institute (CDRI) is pleased to publish its study on Trade Research Institutions in Asia-Pacific: Capacity-Building Needs in Developing Countries, completed in 2005. This is the first publication emerging from CDRIís partnership with ARTNeT, the Asia-Pacific Research and Training Network on Trade, an initiative of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), with support from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Canada.

CDRI has been an enthusiastic founding member of ARTNeT since its establishment in 2004. ARTNeT is an innovative and effective model for the promotion of collaboration and capacity building between research institutes in the Asia-Pacific region. This is particularly important for institutes in least developed countries (LDCs) like Cambodia, which have much to gain from research collaboration and information sharing with other, stronger, institutes in the region, and from the regular trade research skills training opportunities for its researchers offered by ARTNeT through the combined resources of UNESCAP, IDRC and UNCTAD.

The lead researcher and writer of this study was Mr Hing Vutha, a researcher in CDRIís Economy, Trade and Regional Cooperation Programme, with input and assistance from myself and CDRIís former research director, Dr K.A.S. Murshid. The study produced several important findings about the nature of the capacity-building needs of research institutes dealing with trade in the region. One important finding concerns the nature of effective capacity building itself; namely, to be really effective, capacity building must be based on careful and genuine needs analysis, tailor-made to institutional and individual needs. Such a process is complex, long term and resource intensive, and the experts involved must have the proven capacity to transfer skills and build capacity in different cultural and institutional environments. For LDCs such as Cambodia, capacity building must also be designed to meet the needs of government trade officials, who are often poorly resourced in reliable policy-relevant research that can underpin complex trade policy making and negotiations. The Cambodia case study included here provides more detail on these issues.

CDRI would like to express its appreciation to all the research institutes that participated in the study as well as to our colleagues in ARTNeT and the Trade and Investment Division of UNESCAP for their critical feedback and support. CDRI would especially like to thank our colleagues in Cambodiaís Ministry of Commerce for their input concerning the needs of government trade policy makers and negotiators. We look forward to a continuing productive future partnership with ARTNeT and its member institutes.

Larry Strange

Executive Director CDRI

March 2006

Executive Summary

The informal meeting of core Asia-Pacific Research and Training Network on Trade (ARTNeT) research institutions organised by UNESCAP and IDRC in June 2004 in Bangkok highlighted the need for capacity building of research institutions from least developed countries in the region. However, little research or information is available on what the needs of these research institutions are, their existing trade research capacity and how this varies across countries. This study sets out to address the following key issues: What are the existing trade research capacities of research institutions in LDCs and low-income developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region? What are their capacity-building needs in trade policy research?

Research institutions in the Asia-Pacific region have good capacities in trade research in terms of education, experience and skills. Research institutions in LDCs have less capacity than those in developing countries, and research institutions in countries with lower per capita GDP have less capacity than those in countries with higher per capita GDP. In addition to some skill limitations, research institutions commonly face various impediments in conducting trade research of high quality and policy relevance. These range from lack of funding and trade data to lack of links with trade research institutions in other countries and limited availability of relevant IT hardware and software. It is also generally recognised that research institutions need to develop further professional capacity in trade research. Such needs range from long-term trade research training programmes to long-term access to technical advisers and trade experts and wider access to trade data and literature.

The responses to these needs have varied from technical and financial support to institutional collaboration. The most dynamic and helpful programme for capacity development in trade research would be a long-term and ongoing training programme. In addition, other significant capacity building measures in trade research are: greater financial assistance and support for trade-related research; more lasting partnership programmes with governmental institutions, research institutions, development agencies and academia; long-term access to trade experts; and greater institutional facilitation and coordination to manage specialised research networks.

Much greater resources need to be devoted to supporting capacity development in trade research, especially for institutes in post-conflict LDCs like Cambodia, whose research institutions are inadequately equipped with human and capital resources, capacities and skills, whose policy makers remain relatively weak, and whose research has limited linkage with policy making.