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Major potential for development of National Board of Trade’s work to overcome trade barriers

The National Board of Trade is to promote Swedish companies’ export opportunities. This work can be developed in several ways, including increased knowledge of companies’ experiences of trade barriers and the National Board of Trade’s activities becoming better known among export companies.

Containers are loaded on ships by large cranes.

Photo: Bruno Ehrs

Exports are crucial for the Swedish economy. But global trade has weakened in the aftermath of the latest financial crisis, partly due to growing protectionism and other trade barriers. Today, Swedish companies face obstacles in export markets that they cannot resolve by themselves.

The National Board of Trade is the Government's expert agency for foreign trade whose tasks include assisting the Government and Swedish companies in overcoming trade barriers. This includes collecting data on companies’ experiences to be used in the Government’s negotiations and in supporting companies. This work is to be based on the overall economic interest of Sweden.

The Swedish National Audit Office’s (Swedish NAO) audit shows that the work has several deficiencies. For example, the National Board of Trade has not assessed the representativeness of the data collected by the agency. Nor does the National Board of Trade systematically follow up its data collection in order to develop and test new methods. Furthermore, a large proportion of export companies do not know what support the National Board of Trade can offer.

“The export companies that actually receive support and analyses from the National Board of Trade find them of great value, but far too many are unaware of the support offered by the agency. It is also important that the agency develops its data collection in order to maintain and develop its relevance,” says Auditor General Helena Lindberg.

“Systematic development work would enable the National Board of Trade to reduce the risk of incomplete or misleading data collection and thus increase the impact of its support to companies and the Government,” says Dimitrios Ioannidis, project leader for the audit.

The Swedish NAO also finds that the Government’s reporting to the Riksdag regarding the National Board of Trade’s activities is far too limited. It does not describe the National Board of Trade’s performance or the need for measures related to countries and regions that are particularly problematic for Swedish businesses.

Recommendations in brief

The Swedish NAO recommends that the Government ensures that the National Board of Trade works to:

  • collect representative data on companies’ experiences, based on the overall Swedish economic interest
  • increase companies’ awareness of the agency and how it can support companies.

The recommendations to the National Board of Trade include the following:

  • ensure that data collected is representative so that the overall Swedish economic interest is taken into account
  • develop data collection by testing and following up different methods in dialogue with companies and the business community
  • test and evaluate its efforts to increase awareness of, and use of, the agency’s services.

See the report for full recommendations.

Press contact: Olle Castelius, phone: +46 8-5171 40 04.

Presskontakt: , telefon: 08-5171 42 06.

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Updated: 21 April 2020

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